Archive for January, 2014

The Insecurity Is All Me

When you’re trans, at least when you are dealing with supportive people, there’s a narrative of bravery that goes along with being trans. Or at least it’s something I’ve encountered many a time, something that I’ve heard from many others. This stems from the fact that there’s still a huge social cost to being trans or even perceived trans. That’s not up for debate. That is a fact. You can go dig through numbers. I can share them one more time if you’d like. You can read about one more suicide; you can read about one more murder that goes unprosecuted despite overwhelming evidence. I could link to far too many stories like that. But I’ve never really felt particularly brave. I suppose I probably put on a brave face. There’s all sorts of other implications there that go along with a word like brave that I wish didn’t exist. The idea that one must be ready to endure pain and hardship, danger, or that it’s somehow courageous to be yourself simply because society isn’t ready to accept who you are, I am not a huge fan of those ideas. They may be true, but I certainly don’t need to be reminded of it. Being true to yourself isn’t something that should be laudable, per se, it’s just something you should be able to do. Now I get why that narrative exists, I get why people still need to be brave, or at least perceived as such, because that’s hopefully part of what helps get us to a point where that no longer matters, where it’s no longer a brave decision to be who you are. Because the implication therein is that society won’t judge and mistreat trans individuals as lesser, not even people in many cases.

What I feel most of the time, what I’ve always felt, and probably always will feel, is insecure. That is, perhaps, not what you perceive. It is perhaps not even what I give off in terms of how I put myself out there in the world. But it’s always there, just a little. It was insecurity that kept me from truly acknowledging how I was and how I felt even though I put it together. Because I didn’t really consciously appreciate the danger, the punitive aspects of being trans. No, what bothered me the most, what kept me up at night, what made it feel impossible is that I would never pass, that I’d never make a good enough woman for society to deem me one. Which is ridiculous. After all, what’s more natural to womanhood than feeling unnaturally pressured about how you look? I don’t say this to be flippant. I just say it to note that I was really fixated on certain aspects that feel more insignificant now. I’m not the one who’s causing people around me to misgender me, yet there’s still always an inward gaze: what can I do better? I’ve learned how to turn that around, though. There’s a difference between acknowledging that thought and getting caught up in it. I used to get far too tangled in those kinds of insecurities, to the point where I was paralyzed and wouldn’t do anything. If I’m being honest with myself, of course I have thoughts like that. Who doesn’t?

Besides, I’m insecure about lots of things. I’m insecure about my writing, which is why I rarely finish it to the point of putting it out there. I’m insecure about looking bad when I play a game so I stick to the ones I’m good at. I’m insecure I’ll say the wrong thing or not showing the right level of concern or making a joke when I shouldn’t or otherwise being totally socially inept. Which isn’t to say that I’m an insecure person. It’s just that those specters are always there, lurking. It is certainly an aspect of who I am. It always has been. It always will be. I’d love to say that I got over the insecurities, like they’d go away. But it is both foolish and dangerous not to acknowledge the tenebrous parts of my soul, for they do exist; I have plenty of experience with the fact that pretending something doesn’t isn’t, pretending to be someone you are not is not exactly a great path to personal growth. They are just as much a part of who I am as anything else.

What they are instead are drivers. There are a lot of things I don’t know, there are a lot of things I will never do well, and there are a lot of things. I don’t think I’ll ever be happy with what I write, night to echo Sherman Alexie’s wonderful tweet last night . I’m much more accepting of the fact that sometimes I will say the wrong thing even when I don’t mean to because I’m a person and people do that. I know that I will do things in life that I am not good at and that is okay, that I am not being judged, and that I shouldn’t be turning around and doing the same thing. And I know there will always be times where I look in the mirror and something bothers me just a little sometimes. Because I’m not perfect, and I never will be, and there are, at least to me, always parts of us, physical or otherwise, that we do not entirely like. But I also remember that I always see myself a little bit differently than everyone else sees me, that I will always judge myself a bit harshly, that sometimes I will feel a bit insecure when you see someone else entirely. I will never be the belle of the ball; I’ll be the witty one in the corner using with words you may or may not know the definition. That’s all me just as much as the insecurities, perhaps defined by them. And if a hallmark of my life now is living authentically, then it’s acknowledging how I feel sometimes. But I try not to get too caught up in it anymore. Besides, it’s probably not what you think.

As Boring As It Takes

This morning, in my Twitter feed that constitutes my daily bus reading, there were two separate posts about trans suicide. Obviously it was a cheerful morning read on the bus. Slate featured a broader article that highlights some of the numbers and generally talks about things I’m either already aware of or have already experienced plenty of times in my life. The only aspect of the percentage of trans individuals who’ve attempted suicide I found shocking it’s even slightly higher per the new study referenced in the article. But since we’re talking about it. since it’s come up because of the continuing discussions around the Dr. V article, let’s talk about it.

First and foremost, the start of the third paragraph is just…yeah, I’m at a loss for words about it. I am all for marriage equality. I think it’s a great thing. It appears to me the argument being made is that marriage equality represents some sort of broader stand-in for the fact that we’re living in a more accepting society. Which makes sense. Marriage equality laws certainly benefits trans individuals (given the byzantine nature of updating legal documentation). I’m certainly all about supporting it. It just feels like a really odd juxtaposition to me. And yes, I get that he’s setting up his argument, but I don’t really understand how one informs the other. Which is what he then gets into. But I feel like we should take a little more time to talk about that next sentence:

” It’s tempting to say that gay rights groups have left behind the “T” in LGBTQ, and it’s true that organizations like the HRC have privileged gay rights over trans issues.”

While it’s true that trans rights and gay rights are fundamentally different in terms of approach and goals, it’s also true to say the many organizations have left behind the T as well. It’s not just tempting to say so. It’s what has happened. It’s not just the T that’s getting left behind by LGBT organizations (and the B in many cases as well). It’s the T getting left behind by everyone. But if an organization purports to address trans concerns and fails to, then any and all criticisms it receives are totally warranted. Certainly that kind of expediency hasn’t cured all the societal issues that gays and lesbians face in our society. But it also feels like an attempt to justify that expediency. Not that I really think that’s what Mark Joseph Stern is going for. Still, there’s just a hint of it, the suggestion that is why, the implication that you somehow can’t make being trans boring and regular like being gay, because straight people can’t get over it? First off, it’s not the majority straight people who can’t get over it, or rather, that’s not how I’d phrase it. It’d be more appropriate to note that it’s the majority of cisgender people who have trouble with the idea. Being gay certainly hasn’t stopped people from embarrassing me with incorrect pronouns in the past. It won’t in the future. It is, perhaps, a minor word choice, yet it still deflects away from other parts of an acronym that is not always so accepting of us. And it still reflects that conflated nature

I don’t want to beat up the article too much. It’s trying to do a good thing. I get that. That doesn’t mean I have to give things a pass when I disagree with ’em though. For all that it’s trying to do, sometimes it feels like any discussion of trying to talk about how trans people aren’t any different does little more than reinforce the otherness that is frequently foisted upon us. I think there could be some greater discussion of the whys and wherefores. After all, it’s not just the otherness that trans people struggle with, but the fact that sometimes society refuses to see us beyond our birth gender as if that is some be all, end all. That even supportive people can get fixated on how hard it is for them when it comes to pronouns when it’s most definitely not about them. That even when you’ve made it (whatever that means), when you’ve somehow beaten out most of those numbers in terms of employment and homelessness and sexual abuse and substances abuse, you’re still dealing with deeply ignorant people who insult you to the core of who you are on an almost daily basis. It’s not fun having who you are denied on an almost daily basis by total strangers. It’s less fun when it comes from people you actually care about or people who care about you. How do you think it’d make you feel if that happened to you every day, if society did that to you over and over and over, without end? It basically sends a tacit message every day that trans people don’t belong, that we’ll never be accepted for who we are on a constant basis. It reveals how people really think of you. It’s always right there, just below the surface, bubbling. Some days, it takes extraordinary energy just to get through the day and not get overwhelmed by those feelings.

What I don’t really get sometimes is why they are fundamentally different fights. They are fundamentally different expressions perhaps, but they are all coming from the same place. For an article that talks about how trans people need to be viewed as people instead of other, it seems to spend very little time humanizing trans individuals and their lived experiences, or the problems therein. All we want is to be able to freely express who we are and live authentically. Trans individuals aren’t looking for anything crazy. We just want to live our lives in peace. We want to go to our jobs, have families, be respected and accepted by our family, friends, peers, have a roof over our heads, etc. Because we’re just people. There is absolutely nothing unique about that. We want nothing more than to authentically express who we are in our daily lives. It’s just the freedom to be able to express who we are without any need to justify it or explain it. In all its boring glory.

Destinations

The plane touched down a little after 1 pm here at SFO. By my count, in the past year(ish), the roll call on trips goes something like this: a week-long trip to Burbank, a day trip to Chicago, a short one to 7×7 to shake any doubts about the job, a longer drive that was more roundabout and involved some National Parks while moving here, a short hop to Vegas to see old friends, my first long weekend trip to Portland to see if I made the right decision, my eleven day Minnesota-Virginia trip rapidly followed by another long weekend in Burbank and that last PDX trip. I’ll be back at the airport in 9 days questioning my sanity when I touch down at MSP. I like to travel, and I have been fortunate to have the means. It’s been a fun year for it, though I should probably slow down a little bit this year, but I already am sketching out my next Minnesota trip (with grander Midwest ambitions), another short trip to Denver, and a longer trip back to the DC area for the Winter Classic to round out 2014. And perhaps a trip to Austin if the mood strikes me (you’re on notice, Texas). Everyone in Portland’s relatively convinced I’ll be back soon too. We’ll see. I’m also setting aside a little bit of PTO from the magic bag for Noise Pop (because, uh, I live here now?) and Outsides Lands (or as we’re all hoping here in SF, Outkast Lands). Basically, it’s many of the things I want to do I always dreamed of doing growing up, traveling, hanging out with friends, drinking great drinks, eating way too much good food, catching plenty of quality live music, and seeing so many great unique places in this country I call home. I’ve worked toward it and it actually worked out (never a given), and that’s pretty fucking cool, you know? It’s easy to forget that.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about getting my passport updated too. It’s actually pretty easy (I’ve been a little lazy on the birth certificate because, well, it’s kind of a pain) to do now, though. Well, at least it’s not much harder to do than it is for most anyone to get a passport. And it’d be nice to have in case something just came up. I’d love to pop up to Calgary or Vancouver (they say Vancouver is expensive…I shrug) now that they are slightly cheaper flights. And there are a lot of good destinations across the Pacific too that are a bit more in reach. It’d be great to go back to Australia one of these days. There are more places I’d like to go than I’ll have time to get to, but I know that.

Those seem like pretty reasonable destinations. And of course there are large portions of the world I’ll never see. That’s just a given. Even if you are fortunate enough to have the wherewithal to travel, there’s a lot of world to cover, a lot to see. But there are large portions of the world I’ll never see just because of who I am. I mean, I have hard time seeing myself going to Russia. It could just be me, but it doesn’t seem like a likely destination in my lifetime. And while I never had particular aspirations to go anywhere in the Middle East, I also have no desire to be charged with impersonating a woman or some other bullshit charge in that ilk. So I guess that’s probably off the list as well. I’d be really curious to see an exhaustive list of the various laws countries have in place against trans individuals, but I’m not sure I really want to see that in actuality. It sounds like it’d be a very depressing list.

Look, I know in one sense these are super-first world problems, and that I am fortunate to be in a position where I can ponder them. A lot of trans people right here in the States have a lot of problems more pressing than the fact that there are foreign countries that they’ll probably never get to visit. I get that. I certainly have plenty of other problems that are more pressing too. It was just on my mind as I made my way through PDX and SFO this weekend and saw a ton of travel ads, a thought exercise if you will. It’s still something I had to give up by living authentically and there’s no real reason anyone should have to give up on ideas like that just to be who they are. Plus, I think it’s worth remembering that it’s not just here in the US. It can be easy to forget that at times. It’d be nice to live in a world where people can go anywhere, whether that’s Angkor Wat or Red Square or Machu Picchu or anywhere in between. Because I also think of of that world as a pretty open world where people are accepting, where people have the means, and whatever their destinations, they can get there. And while I probably still can go many of the places I want to, I still face a higher incidence of risk just because of who I am. No one should. Even as conditions for trans people are hopefully continuing to get better in our communities, cities, states, and country right here in the US, there are a lot of places where conditions for trans people are not getting better. We certainly don’t have room to brag here. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. And there are still quite a lot of people who don’t seem to think we have anything to do at all, that it’s perfectly acceptable to leave trans people behind. Or lots of other groups of disadvantaged individuals for that matter. Whether your destination is just down the block or another country, though, we should all be able to head toward it freely and openly. But that’s not the world in which we live. At least not yet. It’s an idea to aspire toward, something to work for, whether it’s right in your own community or half a world away. Because you never know. Maybe some day we’ll arrive at those destinations we never thought we’d reach. I know I have. Though there are still so many more I’d like to get to.

The Problem Is You

One of my friends shared a link titled (entitled?) “11 Reasons People End Up Unhappy With Their Lives”. Now, I’m not particularly unhappy with my life, but I was curious what vague wisdom would be packaged into pithy one-liners that would turn lives around. Call me a sucker. And the one-liners are like that. They are the same collection of fairly banal “seize the moment/be true to yourself” sort of stuff that you’d expect to see in a piece like that. But it was the initial open that really got under my skin. While the piece is definitely ostensibly more professionally focused (if you keep a resume or CV for your personal life, go you?), I have a real problem with the idea that if you’re not happy, the problem is you. The underpinning here seems to be work hard, keep doing stuff that’s true to you, and life will work out for you. Oh, and have a good network of people, you’re already happy, and call your parents. Which…whatever. But let’s focus on that opening portion. Here it is if you don’t want to click over:

“Not happy with your professional or personal life? If that’s the case, the problem isn’t your upbringing, or a lack of opportunities, or bad luck, or the result of other people holding you back.

The problem is you.

If our lives suck, we’re letting it happen. Maybe the problem lies in what we believe – and in what we do.”

There’s a ton of privilege in that idea that it’s all on you and if you just figure that out, everything will magically become better. Not that I think he’s actually advocating it to that degree. But I still think there’s a problem there, something that is being denied. The reality is, there are just some people who end up with systemic advantages just because of who they are. I’m not saying they necessarily deliberately try to take advantage of them or create them; it’s just hard to recognize something that you’ve always had. And it’s dangerous to assume that everyone else has always had that as well. Conversely, a lot of people end up with systemic disadvantages for similar reasons. So it seems dismissive of me to not talk about upbringing because it has a huge influence on that and just offhandedly put out there, you can figure it out.

Plenty of people do work hard and life still doesn’t necessarily work out for them. Some people don’t do much of anything at all and yet they manage to get by just fine, better than some people ever will. There’s also high costs, barriers to access that are assumed. Take the networking aspect of it, for example. He only phrases it as collecting people, but in the modern age, most of us collect people through our social media. It’s a great tool for it, right? Think of all the friends and acquaintances you’ve made because of that are scattered all over because of it. Setting aside anything else, access to a device that lets someone network is not a given. We don’t all have smart phones. We don’t all have broadband readily accessible. Those are just the kinds of tools that people need to truly participate in modern networking, friend and acquaintance collecting if you will. Yet that’s an obvious barrier for some. I pay a fair amount of my income just to maintaining access to those connections without even using them. And while I could pay less for certain and look for better deals, it’s still a fair amount to pay. Even the best deal on a smart phone data plan is gonna be $40, the best deal for home internet access that’s actually useful to participate in the internet seems to be at least as much. Not to mention the costs of the devices. And sure, you can participate in something like Facebook or LinkedIn without a device like that at your disposal, but other networking tools like Twitter are fairly useless without that immediacy. This isn’t to say that those tools are the only ways to collect people. But it obviously appears that anyone who has ready access to a smart phone and a personal computer at home has an advantage over someone who does not. Sure makes it a lot easier for me to have an impromptu dinner with friends or acquaintances than it would otherwise.

To me, it’s just an acceptable form of victim blaming. Your life didn’t work out because you obviously didn’t do it right, so that’s your fault. When the reality is there’s a complex set of circumstances that makes anything possible. And a complex set of circumstances that went to create your position in life. Some people are desperately hopelessly behind not because they are dumb or because they didn’t work hard but because they just didn’t have the same starting place as someone else. I chose to get rid of my car when I moved to San Francisco. Because I could make a choice. Not having a vehicle is not necessarily a choice to a lot of people, though, it’s a reality. And the cost of taking transit is vastly different for me, salaried worker who doesn’t have to be there at an exact time, like 9:00 am, than it is for a barista who has to worry about being fired from her shift if the bus just happens to show up late again. We both might take the same way to work, but I can laugh off a late 31BX or send an angry sardonic tweet about it in a way that she can’t. And while some might say that she should just leave sooner, that right there is an extra cost, a loss of time that I don’t suffer from even though we take the same mode of transit to our respective workplaces.

That’s without even getting into my response as a trans woman to how insulting some of those “simple fixes” are. Take the idea of calling your parents every week. Great, I do. I’ve been fortunate to maintain a pretty good relationship with my parents, my entire family for that matter. That is a not a given for LGBT individuals. It’s not even a given for non-LGBT individuals. Or the idea that you’ve gotta not wait for the opportunity. Well, maybe I can’t take that opportunity because I desperately need insurance that’s provided by the company I’m currently with and I can’t afford to take that leap. And that’s making the assumption that the company you’re with even bothers to cover trans care. Or maybe I can’t take that opportunity because it’s in a state where I can still legally be fired just for being trans. There are, professionally and personally speaking, systemic disadvantages to being trans. To not speak out about them and point out that they are there and affecting so many people, to not try and ameliorate those conditions, that would be ridiculous. There’s no sense in denying systemic disadvantages exist because it’s blatantly true. I would say obvious, but most people don’t even know that those conditions are there. To say that any trans individual is letting their life suck is just ridiculous. Far too many trans individuals face dangers and struggles through no fault of their own, because large segments of society are still open to discriminating against us. We face higher rates of unemployment and housing discrimination because it’s still not illegal in most places to discriminate on the basis of gender identity. We can be fired from their jobs, cast out from their families and social networks simply for being true to ourselves. We face obscenely high murder and sexual assault rates simply for being. An absolutely staggering percentage of trans individuals have sadly attempted suicide (41%). There are reasons for all of those depressing items, and I assure you, it’s not because trans people are letting it happen to themselves. The problem is you.

Sometimes Thirteen Days Feels Like Nothing

In what feels like a sad new record, I managed to go 13 whole days without anyone misgendering me. At least that I noticed. I thought I’d at least keep the streak intact until I suffered through the indignity that is TSA tomorrow, but no, one of my coworkers had to go and fuck up. In an awkward setting where I wasn’t sure if it would be better or worse to correct her in case most everyone there just didn’t notice. At least not like I did, because I always notice that sort of thing. And hey, it’s not like any of the dozen or so people bothered to say anything either if they did notice, but that’s not exactly news either. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and just say that they didn’t notice. I’d rather not dwell on the alternative.

So reset the counter. It’s a sorry little one I keep in my head, not a flashy sign or anything. And hope that it’s a better stretch. Because someone will fuck up. Someone always fucks up. Sometimes they’re apologetic. Sometimes they’re defensive. Sometimes they don’t even realize what they’ve done. Really, I’ve heard a lot of excuses and a lot of justifications and a lot of vituperation. I don’t subscribe to the attitude of saying fuck cis people; I don’t think it’s helpful in the slightest, but god do I understand why someone might feel that way. It’s difficult some days; how much more help do people need to accord someone else a little bit of basic respect?

A lot of times, my counter never makes it past zero. Every show, every trip to grab some food, every bus ride to work, it’s just a new opportunity to run into someone who just doesn’t get it, someone who obviously seems to think they know who I am better than I do. Or someone who doesn’t seem to think at all. It’s tiring, always being on guard. It’s funny, that’s one of the aspects of not being out that I thought I could leave behind. I guess not. Some days, it feels less than zero, like I’m just trying to get back there.

I am a rather fortunate trans woman. I know that. I know that there are worse problems to have than this. I know that’s a sad reality for a lot of trans individuals. I know that I shouldn’t let someone that I really have no meaningful interaction with bother me, that I can’t worry about that kind of stuff all the time, that it’s not my responsibility or duty, that other people have a basic responsibility to show respect the same way that I have that same responsibility to others. But I also know that it still is something that no one should have to deal with. I know that I am potentially doing harm to myself and others if I don’t say something or if I say something the wrong way, that there’s a double standard when you’re a minority, that you have to accord respect that others do not accord to you, not because it’s fair, but because it isn’t. I know why it’s so hard for me to let go, because who I am is being denied on a very basic level, typically in an offhand fashion, a callous little unthought of remark. What I don’t know, what I wish I could figure out, what I’ve never heard a salient explanation about, is why it’s so hard for them. And while I continue to try and figure that out, while I continue to learn about it firsthand, back to zero.

Thirty-Three

This seemed appropriate:

I can’t believe this song is over eighteen years old. I can’t believe I’m thirty-three. The passage of time starts to feel odder, as memories from years and years ago mingle with much more recent ones like old acquaintances. I see college friends and I realize it’s been over ten years since our last KQ. I have the strange fortune of seeing some high school friends with regularity and we’ve known each other a long, long time now, well after those four indelible years. There’s nothing you can do to replace the passage of time. And nothing really changes how it flows. But it definitely starts to feel more distorted as the years go by, as all those memories start to blur together.

Of course there are less memorable moments. There are things I want to forget. There I things I’ll never forget. And there are so many things that I have forgotten. But mostly, there’s a ton of good memories in all those years. Other than my last birthday (notable for the water main break right outside of my place and the hastily rearranged, but highly memorable partial Skyway bar crawl that really got cooking in my condo), my past few have been fairly subdued, and that’s okay. It’s a good time to reflect on a lot of great memories when I’m not busy making new ones. And other than my 21st, I’ve never been a big birthday person. Trust me, it’s difficult to convince people to do anything in Minneapolis in January. And I still don’t really know that many people out here. But even if I’m not doing much of anything tomorrow other than working (and sadly not adding to the Minnehaha photo collection just yet…), I’m sure I’ll find something to do. Like eating a pie shake. Or maybe having a nice glass of scotch.

I’m thirty-three. And I’m in a good place. It’s not perfect. It probably never will be. And that’s okay. It’s not supposed to be. Life, it’s an imperfect sort of experience. I’m in a lot of places I never thought I’d be. Physically. Professionally. Personally. Even where I think I’ll be a year from now is hard to say, even in regard to those elements. I actually had my first interview for the job I’m currently working a year ago, on a a 3 degree day (that was the high, but Minnesotans, you know that). It’s going to be 67 tomorrow in Inner Richmond. Though I imagine the temperature will wildly oscillate throughout the city and throughout the day as it seems to here in San Francisco.

In the same old haunts, I still find my friends, Billy Corgan says. And he’s right. So here’s to one more year, to whatever it holds, to finding time with all the old friends, be it in the past few days, the next few, or beyond. And to making new friends that will one day be old friends and new memories that will one day run together with all the other ones. And to a day to look back on all of that and smile.

Let’s Push Things Forward

Today, we finally got Grantland’s follow-up to the Dr. V piece. Two pieces, actually. One from the man who runs the show himself, Bill Simmons, and another from Christina Kahrl taking a look at the missteps in that piece. While I saw a lot of other peoples’ takes on that at plenty of other sites and blogs, I’m glad that Grantland itself ran a piece that captures that trans perspective, because it’s right there, and honestly, I have no idea how many people who visit Grantland are also following people providing an outspoken trans perspective on, say, Twitter, or visiting sites that provide a good outlet for trans thoughts on issues like this. Because it’s right there, hopefully a lot of people will read it. It also contains one of my favorite paragraphs ever from a trans writer (the one that starts “Which it’s nuts…”) because I’m all about that idea too. I definitely respect why people don’t feel that way. I’m just happy to see someone else articulate that.

But let’s talk about Simmons and his piece for a minute. First off, I think it’s quite imperfect, but in the best possible way. To me, at least, it reads as honest contrition as opposed to the frequent forced apologies that we seem to digest on an almost daily basis when mistakes happen. There are still some missteps in there, too, in my opinion. But it’s really great to see the thought process of how the entire article came into being, what the thought process was, how we ended up at a point where it was even on the website and what decisions went into it. Even if it can easily read as thoughtlessness from a trans perspective. Because that gives us all something to work with and understand. Even if it’s mind-boggling that no one thought to ask more questions about what they set up as the central element of the story in retrospect. I have a really hard time looking at this piece from a cis perspective, because, well, I’m not. It’s hard not to see how that doesn’t just jump off the page. I don’t think any response would have left me perfectly happy. You can’t undo the things you did in the past. Bill Simmons took responsibility for that. In part to defend the work they do; in part to defend his writer. I appreciate that. Perhaps too much for your taste, but I respect that too. Not that it changes what happened, of course. I still don’t see how Dr. V being trans has anything to do with the story itself. I still believe there’s a ton of damaging, dismissive, outrageous subtext in the piece. And I still think there’s a lot to work on. But it also seems like they’ve got a group of people who are willing to work on that, who realize that they screwed up, who are open to trying to learn from the whole experience.

The question that’s been on my mind ever since reading it is where do we go from here? What’s the next step? Should it have ever happened? Of course not. But it did, so what are we going to make of it? How can we make things better going forward? I don’t say this to absolve anyone of what they did. That doesn’t really change. But it does seem obvious that the idea is now about how to get more awareness. And of course people should be seeking that on their own. They still aren’t. Let’s work on that instead of having to go through all of this after the fact every time. Though, I am also heartened by the response. Again, it would have been great if it had never happened like this; there’s still a fascinating story there about a con artist that has nothing to do with her gender identity. Conflating those two concepts is dangerous and damaging to trans people. I still think it’s a well-written piece in terms of the way the writing actually is. What’s missing is the lack of knowledge of trans issues, the lack of empathy. That’s still shockingly common when it comes to trans issues. And while I am genuinely pleased to see plenty of cis people with much more awareness and knowledge these days, remember, there’s still a lot of work to do. And it might not have been so long that you didn’t know so much either; hell, even as someone who’s trans, it took me a while to really come around to the larger perspectives of trans issues and start engaging in those thoughts and ideas more.

I wish we never had to have this dialogue, that everyone just had the knowledge and awareness of what issues go along with being trans and trans subjects of pieces, and better yet, why they matter. I’ll keep saying that. Because that kind of thought is what drives me to hopefully do whatever little part I can to help make a world for the next generation of trans individuals where they are that much closer to that. But since we’re here, let’s keep talking. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of constructive thought on all of this, which has been a really pleasant surprise. A lot of people admitting missteps, a lot of advocates condemning what happened but also trying to use it as a launching point to help prevent this kind of thing from happening again. I’m not a big fan of launching so much invective at Grantland that they turtle up and refuse to listen because I don’t see how that helps. There’s plenty of honest criticism and hard thinking that can be leveled without resorting to that.

It’d be nice to say we won’t have this discussion again. But we will. Though hopefully not in regards to Grantland. But remember, keep driving it forward when it does happen. Call someone out when you see something like that, but also create that opportunity to help try and make things better. Remember that there are things all of us probably lack some awareness around that we need to keep challenging ourselves to be better at, and though on different topics and on much smaller stages, remember that we have all probably made similar missteps in regards to some issue, or maybe even the same issue of trans rights not so long ago. Change isn’t happening nearly as rapidly as I hope it would, but it is happening. Can you even imagine this being an issue ten years ago? Again, that doesn’t excuse it. Because there’s still a lot of terrible things out there happening to a lot of trans people, and change can’t come quick enough for far too many. Trans women are one of the most vulnerable groups out there. Hopefully a lot more people are aware of that now that weren’t before. Let’s capitalize on that. Let’s push things forward.

Not Just Another Pretty Face

Yesterday, I stopped in a vintage shop that caught my eye on Valencia. Some random one that I’d never been in before. There’s so many of them littering the Mission or the Haight that it can be hard to remember which is which. And like most trips to vintage shops, I left empty-handed. That’s not a bad thing in it of itself. I probably don’t need another vintage dress with upkeep issues just yet. But I am rarely making the decision about whether or not buying that dress is the prudent decision because I rarely find a dress that even fits. But hey, at least I can reach the top shelves in my kitchen easily.

Sometimes all I want to do is disappear, to sink into the background. This is especially true when I go shopping. I like shopping. But it’s a fairly disappointing experience to know that most everything in the store you are is not going to fit, most places you go. I know where I can find stuff that fits me, and I tend to rely on those shops. Don’t even get me started on shopping for shoes. It’s hard to disappear when you’re 6’,2”; it’s even harder to find a good pair of heels (read: ones that are not designed to make me look like a stripper). Of course, it’s not like I go around naked or anything. I’ve certainly found plenty of things I like over the years and managed to fill out a wardrobe that I feel represents me pretty well. But I have never purchased a dress and thought, okay, now I just need to find the perfect pair of shoes for it. Because that’s just not how it works for me.

Not that this is solely a trans issue either. I frequently wonder where any tall women find anything that isn’t too short, or any women who wear shoes larger than size 11 buy their shoes, given that it’s a constantly shifting landscape. Pretty much every time I find a shoemaker I like, they are shuttering that line of the business, folding up shop for no given reason. I guess there’s just not a lot of money to be made in serving the margins, which in this case I definitely occupy. And society tends to have a problem serving people on the margins.

I try to put a positive spin on it all. Like I said, it keeps me from spending too much. And there’s really only so many dresses one needs hanging in the closet. Though, if I were 5’, 8” instead, there’d probably be a few more. And while there are many things in life that are fairly malleable about this life, height ain’t one of them. And sure, like I said, I know there are cis women that are tall, too. I know I am not the only one that feels this way, and it really seems dumb to worry about something like clothing when there are many more significant issues to concern oneself with, especially as a trans individual.

But like I said, sometimes, I want to disappear. While I’d rather not get too into it right now, there’s a reason the idea of passing exists, and that reasons is because the way too many people in society choose to treat you when you’re perceived trans. So while I understand the intention to want to blow open that concept, to change how people treat the idea of passability, and I am really all about it (because what is passing? Conforming?) I also very much understand the desire to sink in, to blend in, to not have to answer for who you are when you perform the simple acts in life like so many other people, acts like going to buy clothes. In that regard, anything that draws attention to you is bad. There’s something to be said for just being another pretty face that will blend in, or better yet, to be self-effacing.

That’s never what I’ll be, though. Not that I’m unhappy with who I am or how I look. I’m unhappy with how society treats me because of who I am sometimes, but there’s a difference between those two ideas. I will never be just another pretty face that stops into that shop to look at the cool vintage dresses that you just got in. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it. I’d definitely be lying if I said I didn’t wonder what it would be like to be cis and have the privilege to never have to really think about any these issues. Or at least never really think about them from the approach of learned experience.

That’s not who I am, though. Just as it can be hard to find clothes that fit me and really reflect who I am, it can be hard to find good people. But I’ve been lucky enough to find a good supply of both. In both cases, they’re harder to come by than they might be otherwise. I have to be more discriminating. I just have to keep looking. And while it’s frustrating some nights to not be able to find the right thing to wear, to feel like nothing in that closet of mine will work, that’s not the most important thing in the world. There are times, I’m sure, where we all want to be that which we are not. How you look, how you dress, how you project yourself are all part of that. Change those elements and you change how people perceive you, to some degree. Sometimes to a great degree. But I don’t really want to change how I look too much, or how I dress. I like that about myself. I want to change how the world around me perceives and treats me and I’m pretty sure I already have the right clothes for that. Though it never hurts to have a new dress…

What People Are Made Of

It’s taken a couple days to kick up, but it looks like this piece from Grantland about Dr. V is finally making the rounds in trans circles. Or at least I’m seeing it more. Now this isn’t the first time that Grantland’s managed to show a lack of tact around trans issues, and I doubt it’ll be the last, but this is the first piece I can recall seeing that was this focused on it. And that’s coming from a week where they had a feature by Steven Hyden about the new Against Me! record (Transgender Dysphoria Blues if you’re keeping score at home). And while there are certainly had a couple missteps that one could quibble with, on the whole, I still thought it was a pretty good piece. There’s been a lot of talk about the sorts of questions one should ask a trans person recently, and that comes up again as well, but on the whole, it’s something that I at least get the feeling (rightly or wrongly) that someone like Steven Hyden is more contrite about it all, someone who learned from the experience (even if you think it should have happened before that). But I stopped reading Bill Simmons before that entire venture and took a while to come around to Grantland because of some of his more cavalier attitudes, unnecessary jokes that just made me feel more and more uncomfortable. I’m but one person, but I don’t need to keep doing things that I don’t enjoy, and I don’t need to keep reading people that value me solely as a punchline. But I like a lot of the writers assembled there, and I don’t generally feel uncomfortable reading many of them. But even the ones that I do like have missteps. Certainly, I addressed how I felt about one of the mendacious e-mails in Katie Baker’s mailbag a while back. This isn’t a new thing for them.

Who knows, perhaps, this will mark as a good educational moment for Caleb Hannan? Culture may not be moving at the pace I want (okay, definitely isn’t), and I really don’t like having these conversations. It’d be great if everyone just got it, the operative it being that people should interact with trans people like, I don’t know, everyone else. We’re just people. Of course the burden is on other people to educate themselves. Someday we’ll be there. But since we’re not there yet, we have to keep having these sorts of ex post facto conversations. And of course there are numerous breakdowns and points where at least a few people along the way could have said something about the piece before it even hit the web. But they didn’t. The motives of the piece strike me as questionably sincere at best, the veneer of journalism used to do something that really shouldn’t be done except in specific, rare circumstances. This certainly wasn’t one of those. Even so, I’m not ready to go get the pitchfork yet and I’ve never been in love with the outrage machine; besides I’m sure plenty of people will have voluminous things to say about the numerous headdesk moments that litter that piece. Probably more eloquently than I would say them. So let’s talk about something else that’s related to that.

Plenty of trans people don’t want to talk about being trans. Which I’m all about. It’s not a story you should have to tell if you don’t want to. Me? I came by my loquaciousness honestly (if you met my grandfather, you’d understand. The man was a talker). So I’m more than happy to bend your ear. That’s me. That’s who I am. I am personally not all that put off about discussing issues that plenty of people would just as soon never discuss. But if you don’t want to talk about it? Cool. I get that. It can be hard to tell people something that you know has a good chance of making them treat you differently, especially if they didn’t know before. Not that they should. Just that they will. I’d imagine anyone can understand that concept to some degree. Yet, if you don’t tell people you are trans and they find out, there’s this idea that you are lying to them that’s implicit. It’s a terrible bind, an unfair one, and something that I hope people will come to understand better in the coming years. It’s not like people ever seem to say, yeah, I can understand why you didn’t want to come out or talk about this because of the massive social penalties you will face just for being who you are and because I’m now going to start treating you in a totally different manner. But whether you tell people or people find out, there’s this pernicious though process that some people seem to follow, as if because you’re trans that suddenly casts aspersions on all your past behavior and that is fair game now, as if your transness is the Rosetta Stone they’ve been waiting for to finally understand all that was previously inscrutable about you.

Look, Dr. V doesn’t exactly sound like someone who had the most professional integrity in regard to her qualifications. But remember how I said trans people are just people? That means we are still going to have all the traits you’ve come to expect from everyone else. Just as you know virtuous people, you know scoundrels. Being trans doesn’t make you one or the other. Just because someone’s trans does not imply other traits and qualities. But a lot of people seem to still read it that way. You can be the most honest person in the world and still be trans. It’s not like those are all mutually exclusive traits. People need to stop seeing trans individuals as inherently suspicious, untrustworthy, duplicitous, deceitful, etc. and too often it seems those traits are grafted onto trans individuals. Society saddles trans people with a lot of unfair attributes though. That’s not just a trans issue, though. That’s the basis of any sort of discrimination. That’s the basis for the kind of thought process that says “Trans people are inveterate liars”. What makes someone an inveterate liar is that he or she is an inveterate liar, just that. And just because we might not want to tell you our story in regard to that doesn’t make us inveterate liars either. I’m sure there are conversations you don’t want to have with everyone you meet too.

Can you imagine what it’s like to watch people go through that thought process, to see it play out on their face, in their questions? Telling someone you are trans, that’s always opening up to the possibility that they will treat you like a phony, a fraud, inauthentic, ersatz because a lot of people still seem to think that’s an acceptable way to think about trans people, as other. It’s a damning feeling. That’s not even getting into how potentially dangerous it is to share who you are with someone. It’s paradoxical that in the act of being open and honest, other people end up feeling like you are a liar. If you never thought about that, if you’ve never told anyone anything that has the potential to entirely change the nature of your relationship, then it’s worth thinking about. Especially before you ask that next question or make that next assumption.

But there’s another aspect that really drives that story. Let’s say the exact same thing happened to a cis person. Wouldn’t be that hard to imagine, right? Someone who lied about their past credentials and changed their name and burned through a couple marriages and now has this incredible product and is possibly a con artist? I sure we could find examples of that narrative. There doesn’t need to be this explanation, other than, that’s just how some people are. Or there will be a search for one, but it’s ultimately met with a lot of half-answered questions from old former friends and shrugs. It’s an unanswerable question, what people are made of. Yet when you’re trans, it’s a means to an end. If you don’t see the problem with trying to use the fact that someone is trans as a means of explaining everything else, stop and think about how you’d feel if someone tried to use a single aspect of who you are to explain everything about you. The problem is so many people still feel like being trans is this fascinating otherness that’s totally fair to discuss and dissect irrelevant of the wishes of trans people, a story that needs to be brought to the people, something that can help explain everything else. Being trans doesn’t explain who you are. It’s just part of who you are, like so many other parts. Hopefully the questions become less frequent. Hopefully more people start to get that. Until then, before you ask a question that you have no right to ask, before you out someone, before you try to explain everything in someone’s life with one fact, think about how you’d feel if the positions were reversed, if someone did the same thing to you. Not the greatest feeling, is it?

Over And Over

Last Sunday, I finally got around to going to a board game meet-up. I’d been meaning to since not long after I moved here, I just hadn’t got around to it. I was pleased to discover there’s one that’s not located too far away in Outer Richmond and I, for one, had been itching to meet people who play games that live a little closer. Because while I do enjoying going to Mountain View, it’s a bit of a haul. A two mile bike ride, though? That’s hard to pass up. So I grabbed my best set of “I am meeting new people I know nothing about” games with various levels of complexity, number of players, etc. (currently, Innovation, Alhambra, and Transamerica), threw them in my bag, and hitched it on my bike down to Zephyr Cafe for what would hopefully be a good afternoon of gaming. In reality I was quickly mired in an intractable “pronouns, jackasses, pronouns” (not that I said it like that…that’s just how it goes in my head) as is often the case when I spend several hours with strangers. And while certainly it was no issue for several of the people there, there was one guy who just kept fucking up. Over and over and over.

In those situations, I have a few options. I can storm out, but that’s not really my style; it would have been a good time for it, though. It’s not like I actually knew any of those people. I usually resist the urge to leave in a huff, though. I can keep telling the guy over and over and over. That gets a little tiring, you know. And it’s not my job, either. It’s not like anyone else said anything, which is sadly typical. Or I could dismantle him in the game, perform a French exit, and never really worry about that guy again. That’s what I’d already decided, and I executed to the first two parts to perfection, pulling out a win in The Manhattan Project when no one thought I was close and leaving soon after going to the bathroom without much of a word. Yet here I am thinking…

In Minnesota, I found a game group several months before I left. Good games, liked most of the people. But again, there was this one guy who kept fucking up my pronouns. And I put up with it, for who knows what reason. For weeks. Honestly, it never really got better. I certainly said things. Multiple times. But I can’t make people listen, or be more conscientious, or generally make them better people at my own accord. Instead of getting into one of those situations out here, I am just going to not go again. I didn’t meet anyone so exciting that I just have to go back. I didn’t see any games that I couldn’t just go track down another way. I tried it, I found it wanting, and I am not going to make the mistake of tacitly sanctioning the behavior of some jackass who can’t get pronouns right again. Had this situation cropped up at work, it would be totally different. I have to go to work. And I would handle it in a different manner, accordingly. But what I do in my spare time is my choice. Why spend it with people that I am either taking way too much time to educate or with people who just make me feel shitty? I don’t mind talking with people who listen, but that obviously wasn’t happening. The goal of personal interaction isn’t to just feel enervated over and over and over last time I checked. I’m not going to keep putting myself in those situations. That’s the part that I can do; I have a choice as to who my friends are, who I associate with, and how I choose to interact with those individuals just as they do. I don’t need to associate with people that don’t respect who I am and can’t seem to wrap their mind around it.
And while we’re here, what is the problem, exactly? I am sitting next to a guy who’s willing to buy the reality that we are all working to build the bomb or that we are galaxy truckers, but he can’t wrap his mind around who I am? Is it really that difficult? This is actually something I’ve never understood, and probably never will, people who profess how difficult pronouns are, or people who don’t profess that but keep screwing up. I just don’t get it. And before you get all caught up in my use of pronouns and gendered nouns, yes, in the vast majority of cases, it’s men. I don’t say this to absolve women or particularly point the finger at men. I don’t have scientific proof of it. It’s just in my personal experience men seem to have a much harder time with this whole concept of respecting who I am. Take that as you will.

So I guess it’s time to get out there, and keep meeting people, and hopefully find some people in a closer zip code that like to play Innovation and take the time to respect me. I don’t see why the two should be mutually exclusive, after all. But I don’t want to make some of the mistakes I made in Minnesota. I have no problem engaging people and having conversations about my experiences as a trans woman (perhaps more so than some would prefer…). I like being open; I like being the person who is not closed off to the world like I was for a long, long time. But there’s a point where I’m being too open, acquiescing too much to the needs of others at my own cost. Doesn’t mean I have to be rude about it and storm off, like I said before. And I always should say something, at least that once. I like at least giving people some benefit of the doubt, even when they don’t give me the same accord, perhaps, again, more so than I should. But to keep trying over and over with people who don’t listen, people who have shown no effort on their part? I’m done playing that game.

 
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