Activism

Transgender Day Of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance — an occasion that honestly I have very mixed feelings about.

Not that we shouldn’t remember our dead. On the contrary. At least 23 transgender/non-binary people have been killed so far this year in the U.S. As usual, almost all of them were trans women, the vast majority were WOC (mostly black trans women ), a number of them were street sex workers. I point out the latter not to denigrate sex work, rather that they were so marginalized by society that the only way for them to survive was to engage in a highly risky profession.

A partial list of our dead from around the world is a  the TDOR website. Many of them were killed with extreme brutality — what criminologists refer to as “overkill,” which is an indicator of extreme rage and hatred toward the victim.

There were undoubtedly more. Usually they were people who couldn’t afford to change their name and gender on their legal ID — or lived in states where social conservatives intentionally pass ed laws to make it difficult/impossible to do — and consequently when their bodies are found, they usually suffer the final indignity of being misnamed and misgendered by the police and the media. It’s only through people who knew them that we learn who they really were.

They deserve one final recognition as their proper selves.

#SayTheirNames
Mesha Caldwell, 41
Sean Hake, 23
Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28
JoJo Striker, 23
Tiara Richmond, also known as Keke Collier, 24
Chyna Gibson, 31
Ciara McElveen, 26
Jaquarrius Holland, 18
Alphonza Watson, 38
Chay Reed, 28
Kenneth Bostick, 59
Sherrell Faulkner, 46
Kenne McFadden, 27
Kendra Marie Adams, 28
Ava Le’Ray Barrin, 17
Ebony Morgan, 28
TeeTee Dangerfield, 32
Gwynevere River Song, 26
Kiwi Herring, 30
Kashmire Nazier Redd, 28
Derricka Banner, 26
Scout Schultz, 21
Ally Steinfeld, 17
Stephanie Montez, 47
Candace Towns, 30

OTOH, for years TDOR was the only time trans people were publicly recognized. If you were gay or lesbian, you had Gay Pride — an event, even if less and less political over the years, still has an attitude of celebration and defiance. As gay writer Joe Jervis summed it up: “They wish we were invisible. We’re not. Let’s dance.” (From his must-read essay about the value of Pride).

For us, not so much. Pre-Laverne Cox, pre-Janet Mock, pre-Caitlyn Jenner, the only public occasion for trans people was one marking our persecution and deaths. Fortunately, that’s changing, Transgender Day of Visibility, on March 31, intended to celebrate living members of the transgender community, has been gaining traction.

As Daye Pope eloquently said:

“Transgender people are real, and vibrant, and powerful, and beautiful, and resilient, and enough. Despite every obstacle stacked against us we rewrite the rules, beat the odds, defy expectations. I believe with all my heart that we have a bright future, because we will build it together.”

So today mourn our dead, tomorrow fight like hell for the living. In March, celebrate our fabulous selves.

They wish we were invisible. We’re not. Let’s dance.

Ally Is A Verb

Appreciative of all the cisgender allies who’ve stepped up during the past 24 hours, in the wake of Trump tweeting that he was banning trans people from the military (and presuming booting those currently serving). Especially those who worked to educate others so that trans people didn’t have do 101 labor on a very trying day.

“Ally” isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. It’s also a title that’s not self-adopted, rather it’s an honorific for meritorious service, bestowed by the folks on whose behalf an ally is acting on.

Klinger Was Not A Trans Solider

I say this more in sorrow than in anger, but I just had to unfriend someone on Facebook who I’ve known for a long time over that damn Klinger photo, and his doubling and tripling down on it.

I don’t care if Klinger was your childhood hero, he’s not an appropriate poster child to oppose the ban on trans people in the military. Why insist on using a fictional character who wasn’t trans, when you could use photos of actual trans veterans, such as Carla Lewis.

I know you’re trying to be supportive on what’s been one of the roughest day for many of us trans people in a long time, but….

Klinger wasn’t trans. In fact he was donning the dress to get a Section 8 discharge from the Army for being mentally unfit for service. I.e. someone who was actively trying to get out of the service, rather than someone fighting to serve as their authentic self.

Equally important, that photo reinforces the notions that 1) trans women are just “men in dresses” and 2) that trans identities are something just casually put on and taken off at will. Both of which are used as justification to discriminate against us.

It’s inappropriate comparison to trans members of the services and trans vets at all times, and right now, it’s just salt in the wounds.

I’m serious about this shit, don’t try me.

Terms Of Un-endearment

There’s a lot of folks in the burlesque world who need to take a hard, hard look at themselves and their behavior right now.

From seeing a people defend an alleged sexual predator who’s been accused sexual assault and inappropriate behavior by dozens of women, to seeing people defend a venue/owner host who used racist and ableist language (especially since said venue has past racist incidents on stage), I’m not exactly feeling the sparkly sisterhood right now. In fact I’m disappointed and irate.

WTF is so hard about it?! There are simply words that don’t belong to you.

  • Unless you’re Black, the N-word doesn’t belong to you.
  • Unless you’re intellectually disabled, the R-word doesn’t belong to you.
  • Unless you’re LGB, “faggot,” “homo,” “dyke,” “queer” don’t belong to you.
  • Unless you’re trans, “tranny,” “shemale,” “he/she” don’t belong to you.

You don’t get to reclaim them — only those targeted by those terms can, if they decide to do so.

If those targeted don’t feel anyone outside the group has a right to use them, guess what: YOU DON’T GET TO USE THEM!

It’s not hard, and neither “being a good person,” nor “good intentions” ultimately make a damn bit of difference.*

If you step on my toes, and I say “that hurt me, please don’t do it again,” the normal human reaction is to apologize and not do it again. Doesn’t matter if you stepped on my toes accidentally. You don’t try to excuse yourself because you’re a good person, or you had good intentions, or you just wanted to spark discussion.**

Same thing if you’re friends of the person who stepped my toes. Nor do you accuse me of a “witch hunt” for speaking up about the fact someone stepped on my toes (or my friend’s toes). If you’re a good friend, and the toe-stepper is refusing to own their actions and apologize, you should be pulling them aside and letting them know why that’s fucked up. If the toe-stepper is going around and intentionally stepping on toes, then you need to condemn their actions and disassociate yourself from them.

Get with the program, this shit ain’t hard.

* Yes, I’m aware there is a difference between intentional malice and oblivious disregard, but I wanted to drive the point home because white, hetero cisgender get so hung up on “intent.”

** Being able to treat other people’s lives as a philosophical question to be debated is an ultimate expression of privilege. Just saying….