Essays

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.

I Didn’t Choose To Be Strong 24/7

Helen Boyd put it well: “It’s hard to see sometimes because trans people seem to be made of steel. They amaze me regularly with their ability to hide their fear and their worries.”

We don’t have a choice, especially these days. It’s not about “being brave” — as cisgender people are so wont to say about us — it’s about survival. We armor up just to make it through the day. But underneath… a wise friend of mine said that in the face of what society throws at us, every trans person has at least low-level PTSD. But we can’t show it, sometimes not even to ourselves, lest it overwhelm and crush us. Trans kids who don’t have supportive families have a 41 percent risk of suicide. 41 percent. Those who don’t have enough armor don’t survive.

There was essay recently that made the point: don’t forget to check on your strong friend. Because sometimes they want, rather they need a chance to not to be the one who’s strong.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends! Like, I would give my life to protect them. But some days, I don’t want to be the strong friend. Sometimes I need someone to tell me, “You are strong. You are powerful. You are beautiful.” Sometimes I need someone to tell me, “God hears you.” Sometimes I need someone to wipe my tears when I’m having relationship problems. Sometimes, I don’t want to give life advice, I want to sulk. I want to be the crazy friend who needs someone to edit my text messages before I emotionally send them off. I want to complain about my career. I want permission to be weak.

Don’t forget to check on your strong trans people, your “brave” trans people. Because sometimes they too need someone to to carry a shield for them, someone to care for them, someone who make them feel safe enough to let down the armor for a bit. And yes, that includes me.

On Being “Beautiful Ugly”

Not everyone gets to be beautiful, and I’m one of them. That isn’t self-hatred, it’s statistics — a few of us are beautiful, a few of us are ugly, and the rest of us are some degree of what society deems average looking.

This is the part where I don’t say: but that’s OK. Because I’m not yet OK with it. But I’m working toward it, and the French concept of jolie laide is giving me hope about being beautiful on my own terms (more about jolie laide a in bit).

Now I hear you protest, but, but, everyone is beautiful just the way they are.1 Lots of body positivity movements use that sort of language, when what they really mean everyone can, and should be, worthy, desired, valued. It’s a reflection of how 50 shades of fucked up our culture is that even these sorts of messages, by women, for other women, get ensnared in the beauty myth.

No, what I’m talking about is “beauty” in its narrower, more traditional sense of the word: “A combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. One that is beautiful, especially a beautiful woman.” Or as Soul Coughing’s “Screenwriters Blues” described aspiring Hollywood starlets: “Aesthetically pleasing / In other words: Fly.”2

(While we’re thinking of Hollywood, can we stop pretending that beautiful people aren’t beautiful? “Ugly Betty” was probably the frumpiest that network TV has ever allowed a woman to be. But underneath the braces, the hideous glasses, the garish clothes, America Ferrera was, and is, a gorgeous woman. It’s beautiful pretending to be ugly — a kind evil, anti-jolie laide)

Nor am I talking about the sort of “oh, I’m so ugly” bonding that all too many women engage in, nor the sort of body anxieties all too many women fall prey too. I’m no saint here. With the right wig, the right make-up, the right camera angle, the right lighting, I can feel beautiful. But I generally detest casual photos of myself. Especially when I’m in photos with other women. I invariably feel like a hulking Princess Fiona ± only without the the benefit of a tiara and green skin.

Like all too many other women, I’ve stood in front of the mirror are cataloged what society sees as my flaws:

  • Statistically, my height and size are at the far, far end of the chart. My hands and feet are all too big — trust me, trying to find size 13 shoes is a constant reminder of how off the chart I am.3
  • I wasn’t blessed by the androgyny fairy — I’ve got the bulky body type that runs in my family all the way back to the babushkas built to survive long Russian winters.
  • I’m not an hourglass, I’m V-shaped. While estrogen is now giving me a booty, it won’t ever give me hips to balance out my broad child-bearing shoulders, I’ve got big biceps. I’ve got an apple belly just like my mother. (Any plus-size fashion designer wanna give some love to us apples?)
  • I’ve got an average-looking face with a Karl Malden-nose (thanks Mom! <sigh>). I’ve got a gap-tooth grin and my open-lip smile often looks odd.
  • While estrogen is starting to give me breasts, I’m still a member of the itty bitty titty committee.

I’m unbeautiful. Not ugly. But unbeautiful.

In short, like a lot of trans women, by many objective measures I’m not terribly close to the cisnormative, heteronormative “feminine ideal for women in our culture. Very few of us look like Janet Mock, Carmen Carrera, or Laverne Cox. When Cox says, no matter how well-intentionally that “I am not beautiful despite my big hands, my big feet, my wide shoulders, my height, my deep voice and all the things that make me beautifully and noticeably trans. I am beautiful because of those things.”4 it rings a bit hollow for me, well because it’s easy for her to say, she looks like Laverne Cox.5

Another big factor is that, ironically, is that the burlesque world probably has made my body dysphoria worse than it might have been otherwise — since I’m seeing (and comparing myself) to lots of sparkly nearly-naked women. Who I’d argue, on the whole, are probably more attractive, with “better” bodies, than the general population.

While burlesque does talk a lot of about being a body positive space (which it is to a greater or lesser degree depending on the area), it definitely does help boost one’s confidence if you’re closer to cisnormative, heteronormative standard of what’s considered beautiful. So there is a bit of self-sorting that goes on, as far as who even attempts it. Even many (self-described) fat performers often have very pretty faces. Not in the sense of “oh, she’s got a pretty face” as a euphemism for “fat,” rather faces that fit the mold of what’s conventionally considered “beautiful.”

(And just an aside, mad props to those who aren’t the stereotypical burlesque performer – a skinny young (white) woman with a pretty face and big boobs – and who still get up on stage and own it. Especially if you’ve got a face that’s not “pretty” and/or a body that’s “unconventional.” That takes a fuckton amount of courage.)

A final factor is that I transitioned into being a woman “of a certain age,” that age where at best one’s beauty’s is considered fading, that age where women become invisible. I hear about other woman having to deal with unsolicited dick pics and most of me rages with them — but a small part of me is bothered that I don’t get them, like I’m not even pretty enough to merit sexual harassment. Which needless to say is a feeling that’s fucked up six ways from Sunday. But there is it.

Honestly, it all can feel a bit crushing.

But other cultures don’t have such a narrow concept of beauty. There’s a French phrase, jolie laide, which literally means “beautiful ugly,” but is more commonly translated along the lines of meaning oddly beautiful or unconventionally beautiful.

Opinions differ in interpretation. At one end of it’s the flaw that punctuates perfection, for example supermodel Lauren Hutton and her famous gap-toothed grin. On the other, it’s sometimes offered up as a homely woman, whose personal magnetism overcomes her looks, such as the celebrated 19th-century diva Pauline Viardot, who was described by a contemporary as “the kind of ugliness which is noble.”6

However, more commonly it refers to a woman who’s seen as beautiful not in spite of — but actually, because of — her unconventional individual features. Anjelica Huston, whose “regal asymmetry defies the norms of magazine ‘pretty’”7 is often cited as an example. (Benedict Cumberbatch is a good example of the male equivalent.) It’s more of an earned title than a compliment.

But there it’s more than just features that come together in an unexpectedly pleasing way — it’s often described as women who are “not conventionally beautiful but radiate a kind of magnetism that goes beyond their features,”8 a woman who “draws you in in an entirely different and unique way. You can’t take your eyes off of her, but you often don’t know why” and “her allure and perfection comes from a presence of an inner life that informs her outer appearance.”9

Although I personally like an earthy version of it that I heard: “I’m an acquired taste; if you don’t like me, acquire some fucking taste.”

When researching the concept of jolie laide — and there’s a surprising dearth of articles on it — I ran across three quotes that eloquently summarize my feelings:

“I love the idea of jolie laide because it suggests that we do not need to be cookie cutter beauties to be attractive. Suddenly features like tiny eyes, a jutting chin or a prominent nose could actually be deemed attractive. That these features need not be ‘corrected’ by plastic surgery in order to be considered beautiful. The motto of jolie laide is ‘work with what you’ve got,’ and that is very refreshing indeed.”10

Jolie laide offers hope for the rest of us. It opens up the democratic possibility that a woman can be beautiful because she thinks she is, in spite of her oddities. She loves herself, and that love shines through in how she carries herself, in how she expresses herself to the world. Others who would not otherwise be drawn to her looks are yet enchanted because of who she is.”11

“French women are attractive, yes, and stylish, yes, but the mystique and appeal that they wield as a whole isn’t located in [dare I say] mere perfection of proportion. They believe in their beauty, and so convince the rest of us. We should take a lesson.”12

And one final quote from Anjelica Huston herself: “I remember overhearing a conversation between my mother and father… to the effect that Anjelica wasn’t going to be a beauty. My way dealing with that, even then, was I’m going to make myself beautiful. I might not have physical perfection, but I’m going to think myself into being beautiful.”13

Likewise, I may never — make that, will never — be a paragon of cisgender, heteronormative ideas of “beauty,” but I can still be beautiful.

I am fucking beautiful. And if you can’t see it, it’s your fucking loss.


 
1. Which is a phrase that’s really off-putting to trans people with body dysphoria. See Sam Dylan Finch’s excellent “I’m Transgender And I Need Body Positivity, Too”
 
2. Yes, it is 5 a.m. and I am listening to Los Angeles.
 
3. Although obviously there are other women out there who are my size, otherwise I’d be running around naked and shoeless.
 
 
5. Admittedly, Cox is trying to make the point that “trans is beautiful” and that is shouldn’t matter if someone is “visibly trans” as so many of us are. (And she acknowledges it took years for her to reach that sort of self-acceptance.) She’s also acutely aware not all trans people can, or want to, embody this ideal, nor should they. See: http://lavernecox.tumblr.com/post/120503412651/on-may-29-2014-the-issue-of-timemagazine
 
 
7. “What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind” by Debra Ollivier
 
 
 
 
 
 
13. I’ve seen the quote appear on various websites, but never tracked it back to a source. But if it isn’t true, it should be.

I Am Still A Dyke…

To all the TERFs from other states and other countries who’ve descended like flying monkeys on the 25th SF Dyke March – Calling All Dykes: Take Up Your Space page to tell the locals how we’re doing it wrong:

I am a trans woman. I am still a dyke.
I am a late-life transitioner. I am still a dyke.
I still have my original factory-installed equipment. I am still a dyke.
I am a pansexual woman. I am still a dyke.
I’m not a gold star lesbian. I am still a dyke.
I am a late-life entrant to lesbian spaces. I am still a dyke.
I am a burlesque performer (not sex work per se, but still “sexy work,” of which I’m sure you also disapprove). I am still a dyke.
I perform as a drag queen. I am still a dyke.
I am a femme. I am still a dyke.
I am all the things you hate. I am still a dyke.

You’re the ones who are doing it wrong: your cult-like gender essentialism, your rabid hatred of anyone who’s not exactly like you, your outing and doxing my trans sisters.

The SF Dyke March is — and always has been from day one — inclusive of all women who identify as dykes. As their official 2017 statement says: “It’s a political identity. It stands for community. It stands for solidarity. It stands for radical fight. It stands for trans*, black, brown, queer, bisexual, lesbian, disabled, chronically ill, fat, femme, butch, indigenous, gender expansive love. It does not stand by erasure. By displacement. By appropriation.”

Today I will don my rainbow-colored dress and take my rightful place among my dyke sisters. I will be taking up space with them. You can crawl back into the holes you slithered out of. We will be busy being fierce and fabulous.

Keeping Burlesque A World Where Women Feel Safe

I hadn’t spoken up about the Russell Bruner controversy engulfing the burlesque world because I wanted gather my thoughts first.

For those of you outside the burly world, numerous women collectively wrote and yesterday released an open letter saying that a prominent performer and producer had engaged in serial sexually predatory behavior against them, ranging from verbal sexual harassment to criminally punishable sexual assault. Bruner has admitted there have been “incidents,” but claims to have been forgiven by those in involved.

I believe the women. I’ve been sexually assaulted myself, and I know how hard it is to speak up — particularly if it’s a person of prestige and power. Want to know why women don’t report being raped and/or sexually assaulted? Look no further than the Cosby mistrial.

Needless to say there’s no room for sexual predators in the burly world (or the dungeon, or the world at large for that matter). But particularly in the burly world, which today is an art form created by women, where the vast majority of the performers are women, intended primarily for the women in the audience (who make up the majority of our audiences). It’s a space where women can celebrate their sexuality without being slut shamed, without having to worry about Schrodinger’s rapist, without having to constantly watch how we dress and what we say for fear it will result in unwanted sexual attention.

As someone who’s lived on both sides of the gender binary, and who’s had careers in both the burlesque and drag worlds, here’s some thoughts on keeping burlesque a world where women feel safe.

There are men in burlesque — performers, producers and photographers — many of whom I love. That said, Mama’s got some advice.

You are working in a predominately “women’s space.” Much of like bachelorette parties at gay bars, and straight people at Pride, are in someone else’s space. We welcome you, but we also expect you behave with respect and well-learned politesse.

This may take some getting used to. I get it, men — especially white men — are used to going anywhere, saying anything. When I was living as a man, I got that indoctrination too. It’s an example of privilege, which is typically hard to see *precisely* because you don’t have to think about it.

It can also feel unfair to feel like there may be an undercurrent of suspicion until proven otherwise. Yeah it sucks to be prejudged for who you are — welcome to the world of women, of trans people, of people of color. There’s a reason why many women are wary, because we move through the world it is definitely #yesallwomen.

You may think you understand the level of sexual harassment women face. Trust me, you don’t. You just don’t. I had only an intellectual understanding of it myself until I began living as a woman in the world. It’s wondering how quickly it will take for “Come on give me a smile” to turn into “Smile bitch! It’s walking to your car late at night and wondering if you’ll need to use your heels to defend yourself against the guy who’s following you. It’s dealing with the daily messages from collectors who want to friend you so that can save your photos to their personal spank bank. It’s ever-present, it permeates down into your bones.

Obviously not all sexual predators are men — in fact the person who sexually assaulted me was a random women, and sexual abuse within the lesbian community is sadly unreported. But most of them are.

So yeah, you *do* need to be on your best behavior. Think about it. You’re in a space where women are nearly naked on stage, and often fully naked backstage. Watch what you say, watch what you do. Know that, despite your intent, what you say may be taken the wrong way. I know it might feel onerous — welcome to what it’s like being a woman in a man’s world. I’m not saying you need to completely self-censor — I’m a bitch who loves bawdy banter myself. But be mindful of where it’s appropriate and who it’s appropriate with (i.e. best to start with only people you know well).

Some special thoughts for the gay men, who perform as drag queens, who are crossing over into burlesque.

If I hadn’t already made it clear, you’re in a different culture now, with different cultural norms. I’m a lesbian-leaning bisexual, but I’ve spent more than a decade performing in gay bars and other gay spaces as a drag queen (who at the time was thought to be a man), and let me repeat: *it’s different.* Gay culture can at times be a bit sexually… direct… not only cruising but also on the mic, and unfortunately fairly tolerant of people getting handsy with performers. I’ve been groped so many times in gay bars I’ve lost count and people expect to brush it off with a laugh. “It’s not like they’re real” as I ask them to remove their hands from my boobs and my ass. (Yes, they’re my boobs and ass, I paid good money for them.) “What’s the big deal, I’m gay,” they tell my women friends who perform there after groping them. Nope. Just nope. Without consent, it’s still sexual assault.

We drag queens love innuendo and teasing others (and ourselves) about being promiscuous and/or sec workers. But remember women’s sexuality is viewed — and policed very differently. Yes women MCs may make similar comments and jokes on the mic, and the women in the audience go wild. But that’s because burly spaces are one of the exceedingly few places women *can* do that. Those sorts of comments can be heard very differently when coming from a may, gay or not.

Again, I get it, it sucks to feel restricted by problems caused (mostly) by straight men. You want more freedom? Become known for shutting down sexually harassing comments/actions by straight men, and confronting sexually misogynistic comments in gay spaces. In another words, someone known as an ally by deeds not just words.

Actually, that’s good advice for all men.

To all men, it’s not that hard. There’s concrete things you can do every day. If you’re a photographer, before going into a dressing area, ask if you can come in (someone may prefer to get covered by you enter). If you’re a producer make it clear you take sexual harassment (by any gender) extremely seriously. If you’re a performer and see another performer getting a little out of line, pull them aside.

As said before, we welcome you to our house — be good guests.

Why I Smile…

I smile because it’s part of my social jujitsu toolkit for dealing with situations where I’m misgendered, or I can tell they’re trying to figure out my gender, or they realize I’m a *trans* woman and trying out to figure out how they feel about it. When I see a woman giving me “the look” — the glance held too long, where I can see the gears turning inside their head, I give her the social smile that woman are trained to do automatically. It may look friendly, but as is often the case with other forms of woman-to-woman communication, there’s subtext: It’s the “I know you’re looking at me, and now you know that I know you’re looking at me” smile.

I smile at small children because now I can. No longer does smiling at strangers’ children make people presume I’m a potential pedo-creeper.

I smile because there is a casual camaraderie among women. By no means do I want to romanticize that — women can be just as aggressive and nasty as men, and far more micro-aggressive in ways that most men don’t even perceive. But I can’t count the number of casual conversations — in line at the store, in the woman restroom, etc. — that I never had as a man interacting with other men.

I smile because women are trained to smile automatically, practically instinctively. To be nice, to be pleasant. Of course I, like other women, learned the nuances of when and where to smile. Smile at a man you don’t know and he’ll likely think you’re sexually interested in him. Smiling in the street invites sexual harassment. (And even if you don’t smile, catcalls of “hey baby, looking good,” all too rapidly turn into, “why won’t you smile, bitch.”)

I smile because now society allows me a vastly widely range of emotions. In Norah Vincent’s flawed, but still worth reading book, “Self Made Man” (about the 18 months see spend posing as a man to try to better understand masculinity), at the end of the experience she had a nervous breakdown, which in part she attributes to the stress of trying to living within the emotional straightjacket of masculinity.

I smile because why the fuck not. Emotions are contagious, and with all the shitty stuff going on the in world, if I’m feeling like it, why not randomly smile and brighten someone else’s day. Of course, there’s a huge difference between feeling that one *can* smile and and feeling obligated to do so, regardless of how one is feeling. So I someone doesn’t smile back, I don’t take it personally. Maybe they’re having a bad day, maybe they’re from a culture where it’s not acceptable (it’s notable that the thing that reliably identifies Americans overseas is how frequently we smile at strangers), maybe they just don’t feel like smiling back.

I smile because I’m happy. Despite all the trials and tribulations of being a woman, being a trans woman, in our patriarchal society, I’m much happier than I when I was trying to live life as a man.

The Trans Prime Directive

Since I seem to be in a meditation-on-all-things-trans mood tonight, let me talk about something I’m been meaning to talk about for awhile: the Trans Prime Directive — something that’s one of the ways being T is different than LGB, and makes it much harder to build a “trans community” the way that gays and lesbians (or POC) have.

I was checking out at a store the other day, and the cashier was pretty clearly another trans woman. Her build, her voice, the large hands, etc. like me, there’s a lot of tells, if you know what to look for. I’m sure she knew I was trans. But we never acknowledged that to each other.

Why? Because of the Trans Prime Directive: Thou Shalt Not Out Another Trans Person. It’s never written down or really ever discussed publicly (in fact the name was coined on a private forum for trans people that I belong to), but all but the most socially inept trans people instinctively do it.

So no knowing nod. No asking if someone is a friend of Dorothy, or likes RuPaul’s Drag Race, or they like softball. (Just to be clear I’m referring to ways gays and lesbians used historically to subtly find out if someone was also gay or lesbian while still flying under the radar of straight folks.)

Yes there are trans people who are out and proud — and more and more these days. But there’s also people who aren’t yet out of the closet, living in that gray area of gender non-conformity but with plausible deniability. Others transition and “disappear into the woodwork,” finally able to live their lives as woman and men, rather than trans women or men.

And one never knows which group a randomly-encountered trans person belong to. So we all respect the Trans Prime Directive. Which needless to say can feel a bit isolating at times, and harder to feel a sense of solidarity.

The Dark Matter Of The Trans Universe

Today is Transgender Day of Visibility….

I’d like to give a shout out to all those on the trans spectrum who don’t socially transition and therefore never go public for various reasons (most don’t feel the need to transition and are happy being “just a crossdresser” etc.), and often are deeply, deeply closeted — there’s probably 10 of them for every public transitioner, making them the vast dark matter of the trans universe.

Unfortunately many of them are looked down upon not only by society at large, but also too often by other trans people. Yes, I see you, and yes, you’re “real enough” too.

Why Shouldn’t Employers Want Trans Employees?

Elsewhere a friend of mine was asked to put together a presentation to business executive about “why should employers want trans employees?” Someone else aptly pointed out that the question is backwards: “Why on earth WOULDN’T you hire trans people?”

That said, my wise and bad-ass friend, Grace Alden, had a stellar response:

“First select for the skills you need, and work hard to NOT be selecting on things which should not matter initially, like gender, race, trans/cis-ness, etc. All incoming résumés should be shorn of identifying information, to the extent possible.

Once you’re down to the pool of people where any of them would theoretically work, and you’re looking for the best of the bunch:

Understand that we are desperate for income, and when we find it, we tend to be very loyal and to work hard.

Understand that because so many people treat us like crap that we will tend to regard you as a cut above the average just for treating us decently.

Understand that our presence in your workforce will flush out the bigots in customer-facing positions who have gone unnoticed but who have quietly and subtly damaging your business by leaving certain customers feeling cold. Those bigots are the ones who will say they’re “just not comfortable” sharing a bathroom with us, and once you know who they are, you can monitor their behavior toward other minority customers, especially trans people. Understand that those bigots are the problem, and that their targets are not the problem.

Understand that like LGB people, trans people are brand-loyal to companies which demonstrate that they get it. When you see a trans person working at a company and apparently happy, it tells you a lot about the company. There’s a reason that medical providers who treat trans people like human beings suddenly find that they are trans specialists because 50% of their clients are trans. You want access to a loyal demographic? Hire a trans person to spread the word among trans people. Take advantage of the fact that most of the market treats us like crap.

Understand that trans people who are still alive have been through a hell of a selection process. We are, on average, smarter, tougher, and more focused. Some of us are twits, but some of every group is twits. Hire on the merits you see, but be aware that if you’re hiring a transitioned or stable-middle-path* adult trans person, you’re probably hiring someone with effective life skills. It’s not that trans people are smarter or tougher, because we’re not; it’s that the trans people who are LEFT are smarter and tougher, on average.**

Hire us for the same reason you hire veterans. Yes, some of us are damaged. But if we past muster for what you need done, we are a better bet than average. We are not a sure bet, but nothing is. We just stack your odds positively.”

Grace has given permission to share this wherever it might be helpful.


* “Middle path” is a term we use on that forum for people who live lives in more than one gender, but either cannot transition due to circumstances, or more commonly have no desire to transition (i.e. they’re on a middle path between genders). “Bi-gendered” is another term that’s often used to refer this group within the trans spectrum.

** 41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people surveyed have attempted suicide — 10 times the general population. Yes, living in a largely transphobic society IS that hard on trans people.

That Moment When…

That moment when… You’re in a class and although you assume you’re “visibly trans,” you have to decide to say “as a trans woman” because there’s a point that you can’t really make without outing yourself.

Again this is where being “out and proud” is different if you’re T vs. LGB — for latter it’s telling people who you really are, but for transitioning trans people it tends to focus attention on who you were (or at least who people think you were).

One of the things I enjoy about burlesque and BurlyCon in particular, is that it’s been a space where I’m accepted as a woman in the company of (almost exclusively) women. Last year’s BurlyCon was marred for me by some transphobic incidents — both the incidents themselves, but also that by calling attention to them I by necessity had to call attention to myself being trans.

Now I’m not one of those transitioners who plans to disappear into the woodwork post-transition. I’m proud to be a woman who’s trans. But there’s just some days where it’s just… nice… to have that not be the thing that defines me. To be just another woman.

Today wasn’t something that needed calling out. I didn’t have to raise the point I raised, it was just offering an insight that was a bit unique.

(It was a class on eye contact and one of the exercises was for everyone to walk around the room and hold eye contact far longer than normal as they encountered people. For me, I initially had to stifle an automatic defensive reaction, because “the stare held too long” is the reaction I get from people who are displeased by my gender, or at least are trying to figure out my gender. And while I don’t let that bother me anymore, it does mean I go do become much more watchful of whether the person staring poses a potential threat. At this point it’s more of an ever-present, almost unconscious continual threat assessment, just likes he ones I do without thinking as a woman being out in the streets at night.)

I raised this because I thought it would be a useful bit of gentle consciousness raising, especially apropos now.

But yeah, it’s complicated…