Copyright © 2014 Transgender Violence Tracking Portal. All Rights Reserved.
This is copyrighted material; I have changed the wording slightly to make it more readable from the perspective of this blog, (i.e., third person vs. first person.) See terms for reposting/reblogging at the end of this post.
The Transgender Violence Tracking Portal (TVTP) provides a location to report on various forms of violence and harassment that occurs to transgender individuals throughout the world.
The Transgender Violence Tracking Portal is an attempt to collect data on anti-trans* violence in order to protect the transgender community in real time and help trans* people and allies be better-informed advocates for change.
Transgender* people make up 1 to 1.5% of the world’s population but are about 400 times more likely to be assaulted or murdered than the rest of the population. These crimes are more likely to be violent, and are often meant to intimidate the entire community. Many of these crimes are left unsolved, which makes it doubly important to track and hold law enforcement accountable to solving these crimes.
The TVTP works to provide news of violence against the transgender* community and, eventually, a central repository of reports (searchable by location and time).
Backed by a successful kickstarter campaign, the site currently features news and the ability to submit an incident report, as well as reports of missing persons and the ability to share and disseminate news via social media from a central location.
There are many identities and terms under the broad “transgender” umbrella. In their Incident Reporting Form, the TVTP seeks to provide a descriptor field that will allow for this diversity of identity to be honored and respected, while also providing accurate and usable data. They also are staying within the reporting criteria of governmental agencies to provide a matching criteria to dispute figures that they know at present are questionable. This limits some of the identities that are populated for statistical research. However, in the user profile, they allow a wide range of self-identities for each person’s own self-identification.
It is also important to note that sometimes transphobic violence is perpetrated against individuals who do not themselves identify as transgender*, and they seek to honor and respect chosen identities of victims and survivors while still holding perpetrators accountable. The TVTP will continue to grow identity fields as new terms are added. Here are a few (not all) that they currently list:
- Cross Dresser
- Gender Non-Conforming
*The TVTP places an asterisk with the term transgender on their site to denote its usage as an umbrella term.
Types of Incidents That are Tracked
- Adverse Court Decisions
- Bathroom Harassment / Incident
- Employment Discrimination/ Harassment
- Food Bank/Meals Program Incidents
- Govt. Harassment / Incident
- Hate Group Harassment / Incident
- Housing/Public Accommodation Harassment
- Law Enforcement Harassment / Incident
- Medical Facility/Practitioner Refusal to Treat
- Missing Persons
- Prison/ Jail Incident
- Religious Bias / Harassment
- Reparative/Conversion Therapy Harms
- Restaurant/Bar Harassment
- Silicone Injection- Death
- Silicone Injection- Self Injury
- Suspicious Death
- Verbal Violence / Hate Speech
- Workplace Discrimination (Title VII)
- Workplace Harassment / Incident
How Can I Help?
Glad you asked! There are several ways anyone can take action and help out:
- Donate – Support this project by becoming a contributor. Any little bit helps.
- Share – Share a story from the site to help raise awareness. Each time you share news from this project, individuals learn more.
- Volunteer – They need your help! You can volunteer for one of several jobs at the transviolencetracker.org. Click here to see the opportunities that are available.
How Can I Contact the Trans* Violence Tracking Portal?
You can contact the Trans*Violence Tracking Portal here.
The author of this post and the Transgender Violence Tracking Project authorize and encourage that the material in this post be reposted and reblogged widely as long as the following copyright notice is included:
“Copyright © 2014 Transgender Violence Tracking Portal. All Rights Reserved.”
- Transgender Violence Tracking Portal: One Year Later (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Next Civil Rights Frontier: How the Transgender Movement Is Taking Over (raverx.com)
- Transgender woman fatally shot in Los Angeles, media reports (glaad.org)
- Is Brooklyn Becoming Unsafe for Queers? (news.yahoo.com)
- Is Brooklyn Becoming Unsafe for Queers? (thedailybeast.com)
- Documents Reveal Efforts to Block Protections for Trans People in Canada (news.vice.com)
Reblogging this after the tragic suicide of Robin Williams. If you are feeling suicidal, please call your local suicide prevention number, call 911, or go to your closest emergency room.
Originally posted on purplepersuasion:
In July 2011 I wrote a post entitled, “Ten things not to say to a depressed person.” It was the first piece on this blog to attract a large audience and I own much of my blogging success to that post and its companion piece, “Ten supportive things I’m glad somebody said to me.”
I’ve decided the time is right for a similar piece on dealing with suicidal people (although I’m definitely not expecting the same number of readers for this post!). Suicidal thoughts have been a problem for me since around Christmas and the wide variety of responses I’ve received to my blogs and tweets, along with training to be a Mental Health Instructor, have given me cause to think about how people respond to individuals they know to be suicidal. A common response is feeling that they must throw some logic at the problem. What people don’t…
View original 1,724 more words
It’s sad for me to say, but it appears that this blog has outlived its usefulness. Its original purpose was to educate cisgender people about transgender issues, and evolved into doing the same while documenting my own journey in becoming more trans-aware and recognizing and owning my cis privilege… all with the goal of bridging understanding between cisgender and transgender people.
Writing does not come easily to me. Sometimes I spend an entire day—or more—on a single post; hence the infrequency of posts as I try to cope with a rather chaotic personal life. Yet there seems to be only one person who regularly reads my posts and after an initial interest by a few cisgender friends, and a lot of support by a number of transgender friends, this interest seems to have dwindled.
I believe that what I was—what I have been—doing has been important and valuable, yet there doesn’t seem to be any point in continuing to write if nobody is reading. So, I am stopping. Unless something changes, this will be my last post. :'(
I am posting this as a favor to my friend Suzan. To reach Suzan for more information, click here to be directed to her blog, then click on “About” in the upper right-hand corner and you will find her email address there. :)
08/07/2014 — Suzan
It has been a while in coming. First I declared myself neutral in the endless trans-wars. Then I embraced being post-transsexual. I realized that as an old woman I had no desire to be a trans-activist or for that matter exploit my having been trans for economic benefit.
I’m in the process of simplifying my life as well as starting a new small business.
Some people have been after me to donate my library to various institutions.
The truth is I can’t afford to donate my library to some institution that is probably better off than I am. Therefore I am selling off my library on E-Bay.
While you might be able to find some of the books for less it won’t be much less.
While I can’t afford to contribute them for free to an archive perhaps you might purchase one of these books and donate it.
Becoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green
Excluded : Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive…
Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism by Pat Califia
Trans/forming Feminisms: by Krista Scott-Dixon
Transgender History by Susan Stryker
Finding the Real Me : True Tales of Sex and Gender Diversity…
Transseexualism and Sex Reassignment
My Story by Caroline Cossy
I Am a Woman by Tula (1982, Paperback, Illustrated)
Hidden in Plain Sight by Leslie D. Townsend (2002, Paperback)…
Lesbians Talk Transgender (Lesbians Talk Issues) by Zachary I Natif…
The Woman I Was Not Born to Be : A Transsexual Journey by Aleshia Brevard
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity
Blending Genders : Social Aspects of Cross-Dressing and Sex-Changing
Sex Change, Social Change By Viviane Namaste
Presentations of Gender by Robert Stoller
The Uninvited Dilemma: A Question of Gender
Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach
Transgender Nation by Gordene Olga MacKenzie
Lessons from the Intersexed by Suzanne J. Kessler
Suits Me : The Double Life of Billy Tipton by Diane Wood …
The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male.
This is just the initial offering more will follow.
Following is a video of an exclusive video of Cathy Brennan spewing her usual TERF RATfem, hateful crap. I will highlight some of her comments that particularly pissed me off but this post is not finished & will be completed later.
This post may piss some people off. If it pisses you off, please click on “About”, choose “This Blog” and read that page, particularly the last part about the purpose of this blog being my documenting my journey in understanding transgender and intersex issues and attempting to normalize the experiences of cisgender people to encourage them to take a similar journey.
I am being open and honest about my experiences and feelings, as ugly as some of them may seem to some of you. I’m a 55 year old cisgender woman who was socialized at a time when transgender people essentially did not exist: I have biases that I am trying to unlearn and am working to own my cisgender privilege. But I’m only human and 55 years of no information and misinformation is a lot to unlearn and it takes time; any cisgender person reading this needs to know that their feelings — their uncomfortable feelings of confusion, embarrassment, tentativeness about asking questions at the risk of offending anyone, etc. — are normal. It is difficult knowing someone as one gender, learning they are another and then adjusting to their transition, using the correct name, pronouns, etc., and transgender people need to realize that when we screw up it’s not always due to malice.
I have a transgender friend I met online 2 years ago before she came out publicly as trans. So I knew her by her birth name (I will use the name “Ron” — not her actual birth name) and her picture on Facebook was of a middle-aged, balding, male-bodied person.
I was involved in conversations when she chose her new name (I will call her “Carrie” — not her real name), and in private all of our friends called her by her new real name. But in public I could not do that, and her name still showed up as “Ron” and her pic was still of that same middle-aged guy.
Obviously, I would never out anyone, but I felt very uncomfortable calling my friend “Ron” and I knew that doing so would also make it even more difficult for me to see her as a woman as she transitioned, so I started calling her by her last name. This may sound weird to some, but seeing the name “Ron” accompanied by a male-bodied picture made it very difficult for me to see Carrie as a woman. I had to see my friend Carrie as a woman and I had to do everything I could to force my mind to ignore or forget information that might make me not see her as the woman she is.
I was “there” when Carrie came out publicly and it was a relief to be able to call her by her real name all the time. She changed her Facebook profile pic to a female picture, but it was a cartoon character, not a picture of her. So I have not been able to get that male-bodied pic of a middle-aged balding “man” out of my head, and with the name “Ron” associated with that pic in my head, it has been an onerous task getting the pronouns right when I talk to people about Carrie (without using her name, of course) and her transition. I would never deliberately misgender someone, but as a visual person, that picture has been stuck in my brain for 2 years and I have not been able to get it out.
Well today I finally saw that Carrie has posted pictures of herself on Facebook (and WordPress). Hallelujah! I realize that this is my issue and not Carrie’s or any other trans person’s but my difficulty with getting pronouns and gender straight in my head with conflicting visual cues is a valid experience and it gives credence to families’ and friends’ struggles with “getting it right” when someone they’ve known for many years comes out as trans. It is difficult for us cis people to “transition” with your transitioning for very real and understandable reasons that have nothing to do with transphobia, so please be patient with us.
Seeing what Carrie really looks like now makes me pretty confident that “Ron” and the image of “Ron” will quickly fade and I will no longer have any difficulties with pronouns when it comes to Carrie (and she looks great!) Carrie, if you see this: I wish I could express how confused, conflicted and guilty I have felt about my difficulties seeing you as a woman… all because of that stupid picture. ♥
*TRIGGER WARNING: Contains descriptions of violence.
… in that it is a concept.
Santa Claus symbolizes the spirit of giving, generosity and all that is good and lives in the hearts of people. So too, does “cisphobia” live in the hearts of people… in the form of hate by the very people who claim to be oppressed by those they actively oppress.
The false construct of “cisphobia” (“cisgender” + “phobia” = the irrational fear of cisgender people, presumably by people who are not cisgender) runs parallel to the false construct of “reverse racism,” which was created by white bigots (the oppressors) to put the onus of oppression back onto people of color (the oppressed.) The entire concept is ridiculous: The only “reverse” of racism is a lack of racism. But what’s one to expect from hateful bigots? Blaming the victim is part of their repertoire.
There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING irrational about transgender or other non-cisgender people being afraid of cisgender people, as many cisgender people seem threatened by the very existence of transgender people (it seems that trying to explain non-binary gender, agender, gender fluidity, etc. would be like an exercise in futility), and appear to believe that their ignorance and incomprehension gives them tacit permission to commit unspeakable acts of violence against anyone who is not cisgender, white and male, which puts transgender women of color at the highest risk for being raped, tortured, murdered and mutilated by these pre-Neanderthal animals.
“Cisphobia” is not real.
And until cisgender people are preyed upon by transgender or other non-cisgender people due to an irrational fear of cisgender people by non-cisgender people, it will never be real. I find that highly unlikely, at least in my lifetime.
- Dear Piers Morgan, Cisphobia Isn’t Real (And You’re A Jerk) (nyulocal.com)
- Cisphobia (transilhouette.wordpress.com)
- UPDATED: Piers Morgan claims to be a “victim of cisphobia” after Janet Mock perfectly mocks his ignorance on Twitter (salon.com)
- 19 Things Bad ‘Allies’ Say (thoughtcatalog.com)
- cisgender (abagond.wordpress.com)
- Piers Morgan messed up an interview with a transgender rights activist, claimed to be a victim of ‘cisphobia’ – Twitter laughed in his smug, ridiculous face (usvsth3m.com)
- Piers Morgan Interviews Janet Mock: How Not to be an Ally (bluestockingsmag.com)
I think it can be frustrating for communities when allies of that community, when they’re questioned or challenged, or critiqued, say, “Hey, wait a minute, don’t critique me, I’m your best friend, I’m an ally.” It’s like when white people point to the number of black friends they have, or men talk about the “binders full of women” that they’ve hired.
Columbia University Professor
More than once, a gay white man has angrily accused me of man-bashing and even called me a homophobic gay-bashing bigot (!) when I’ve pointed out their cisgender, male white privilege and the fact that most of the LGB…uh T civil rights movement has been focused on the rights of cisgender gay white men and has largely benefited cisgender gay white men, while largely neglecting issues affecting non-cisgender, non-male identified and other “queer”* individuals who do not identify as “gay,” and people of color. Here are words of enlightenment from a gay cisgender white man who actually gets it… with a description of how he got to “getting” it.
*The word “queer” is in quotation marks because I grew up in an era when this word was considered a slur. While I realize that younger people have chosen to “reclaim” the word and recognize that it does have its usefulness as a descriptor, I still have some discomfort in using it.
The following has been reprinted in its entirety from the Advocate:
BY JEFF KREHELY
FEBRUARY 07 2014 8:00 AM ET
The first thing an ally needs to know is that listening comes first. Following the recent controversy around Janet Mock’s appearances on Piers Morgan Live, this is the one message I hope self-professed allies can take away.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure they are.
Here’s what happened. Morgan hosted Mock, an incredible transgender advocate, on his show Tuesday night to discuss her autobiography, Redefining Realness. In the course of so doing, Morgan focused a good deal of the interview on her gender confirmation surgery, and the disclosure of her gender history to her boyfriend. Text on-screen said she “was a boy until age 18.”
To Morgan, the interview went off without a hitch. But Morgan, while an advocate of legal rights for transgender people, doesn’t seem to have a whole heck of a lot of understanding around the lived experiences of transgender people. Twitter, on the other hand, does. And transgender women of color and allies spoke up.
And it just got worse. In the follow-up interview, Morgan and a panelist essentially boiled it down to this logic: she talks about these subjects in her book; we talked about it. She was biologically male at some point, so calling her a boy is fine.
As Mock so astutely noted, sometimes well-intentioned and good people can be really offensive. And many of you reading this right now may still not get how offensive Morgan’s line of questioning, and lack of inquiry about other parts of her life, really is. But keep reading.
Being good, well intentioned, or liberal doesn’t mean you get it. And it doesn’t make you an ally. I know something about this myself — having worked in social justice for more than 15 years, I’ve had to do a whole lot of work to get to the ally point.
I was a 27-year-old openly gay man when I first met someone who openly identified as transgender. He was the boyfriend of a colleague of mine. And he was incredibly forthright about his journey and provided me with my first opportunity to understand what “gender identity” was all about.
I felt supportive, but I didn’t get it. And I wasn’t all that inclined to believe that his challenges were particularly wrapped up in mine. At that time, what are now known as LGBT organizations were very much about the L, the G, and sometimes the B.
Most white gay men like me — even liberal ones — didn’t have much incentive to pressure LGBT groups to expand their agenda, especially as the right-wing led efforts to outlaw our right to marry. Because of my own privileges, that was my main cause and my sole source of oppression in 2004 America.
A couple of years later, I stumbled into a professional LGBT job. And even though I could be hired with very little cultural competency when it came to transgender people, things suddenly came to a head. In 2007, gender identity was dropped from the House’s version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the LGBT movement declared war on itself.
I didn’t yet understand how keenly transgender people needed workplace equality. But the political wonk in me saw the fissure that had happened. And I knew if we couldn’t come together as a movement, we might as well surrender to the far right.
I was an advocate, but I wasn’t an ally.
But in the course of my work — directing research at the Movement Advancement Project — we decided to do a deep-dive on transgender issues. That meant a partnership with National Center for Transgender Equality and the Transgender Law Center.
We approached this research as we did all other projects, which meant that the first step for us was to interview and listen to advocates, researchers, and others who were squarely in the issue space. We spent several weeks reading pretty much everything that had been written on what transgender people go through in our country, including many first-person accounts of the struggles, strengths, and resiliency that define the lives of so many transgender people.
Mara Keisling at NCTE and Masen Davis at TLC were both incredibly patient with my learning curve, and it was clear to me they had had spent many seconds, minutes, and hours explaining transgender issues to other people like me. I was also struck by how effortlessly and sincerely they supported and understood LGB issues.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point in doing this research, I finally understood what it meant to be an ally. I could suddenly see the common connections among the LGB and the T, as well as appreciate the stark differences and the many gradations in between. I also naturally felt a responsibility to treat transgender issues with as much — actually, probably more — passion as I did LGB issues.
Which is not to say that I’m an expert on all things transgender, or that I can ever really understand what it means to move through our culture as a transgender person. But I do know that almost every transgender person has to fight to be seen for who they truly are. And that transgender people — especially transgender women and even more so, transgender women of color — face harassment and violence in living authentically.
So back to that line of questioning. When CNN chose to label Mock “a boy for 18 years,” the network was complicit in denying Mock’s own truth — that she never identified as a boy. When Morgan dwelled on her disclosure to her boyfriend — without the addressing the fact that many transgender women have a legitimate fear they’ll be beaten or killed at the point of disclosure — they perpetuated the transphobia that fuels this violence.
Today a reporter wouldn’t think to ask my husband and me, “Who’s the wife?” But a network can still continue calling Mock a boy without blinking an eye.
I was an advocate for legal rights long before I was an ally. And being an ally is a continual process. As the conversations between Piers Morgan and Janet Mock are endlessly debated on Twitter, it strikes me that self-proclaimed transgender allies — which Morgan consistently asserts he is — need to step back and make sure they’ve done their homework.
It takes time and it doesn’t make for great ratings. But it’s the kind of work that creates change and — ultimately — liberation for all.
JEFF KREHELY is the chief foundation officer of the Human Rights Campaign. Interested in becoming a better ally to the transgender community? Check out HRC’s FAQ, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Transgender Law Center, and the Trans People of Color Coalition.
…her interview with Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox.
…and learns nothing from her own so-called “teachable moment.”
Reprinted from the Huffington Post
Posted: 01/14/2014 1:19 pm
Producer and host, ‘TransMilitary';
member of the Board of Directors,
National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association
Katie Couric totally missed what she referred to as the “teachable moment” in her interview with Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox. Sadly, what she did do is reinforce the reality that society as a whole has a long way to go in coming to understand who they know themselves to be.
Couric’s questions said more about her — and her audience’s — ignorance of what is it to be human than it did about their lack of knowledge of being transgender.
At the crux of the situation is that sex does not equal gender. When we’re born we are assigned a sex based on what genitalia is seen between our legs. The error occurs when we make assumptions on someone’s gender based on that sex assignment label.
Assigning someone as female at birth does not mean their gender is female. Assigning someone as a male at birth does not mean their gender is male.
Gender can been seen with three different elements: 1) Who you know yourself to be, 2) how you express yourself to the world, and 3) how the world sees you.
Sex organs do not define gender. Regardless of what we have beneath our clothes our gender is defined in ways beyond our body. Further, the gender we know ourselves to be is a deeply personal experience — if we have the courage to explore it.
No one would ever ask, “Katie, what does your vagina look like today? You’ve given birth twice, right? Has it lost any elasticity?” So why should she ask Carrera what status her genitalia is currently in? How is that Couric’s or her audience’s right to know? And how is that relevant to the gender Carrera knows or expresses?
Asking about sex organs is a) inappropriate and b) shortsighted to understanding the experience of being transgender.
If Couric was more aware of her own gender she would never dare view Carrera as a person who should have to describe the anatomy between her legs. While it may be very personally pertinent to how Carrera feels as a human being, it is no one’s prerogative to use her genitalia or state of transition to make a judgment on her gender. It’s simply not relevant to how we should see Carrera.
With class and compassion Carrera and Cox seized upon the “teachable moment” themselves, highlighting the horrific violence, oppression and discrimination transgender people face. But what doubled the disappointment was that Couric did not listen. She had a list of questions in her head and could not lead the dialogue appropriately. She hadn’t even bothered to learn correct vocabulary, making her use of “transgenders” majorly cringe worthy.
Nonetheless, whether we are transgender or not, why should anyone care what anyone else’s genitals look like? We are all born with what we have and the only reason someone may assert that our body is ‘wrong’ is if that body doesn’t meet the expectation placed upon it. Remove the expectation and allow that human being to just be. Only we know what it’s like to experience being ourselves. Neither Carrera’s nor Couric’s genitalia define the “correctness” of their bodies.
People who are not transgender, who do indeed identify with their sex assigned at birth, are known as cisgender. I would make a guess that Couric is cisgender.
The cisgender obsession with transgender people’s sex organs indicates that cisgender people don’t really know enough about what defines their own state of being. Quite frankly, if as Couric says, “it’s still a mystery to some people,” then go read a biology book or Google it. Stop and think about what defines your own gender. Does Couric really think that it’s her own vagina that makes her a woman? If you’re curious as to the pain level of gender reassignment surgery (GRS) imagine the pain level of any other surgery. Or ask about the fearful pain of isolation due to cisgender lack of self-awareness and awareness of others.
If Couric wants to give a platform to raise awareness and understanding of what it is to be transgender, then she should help her audience come to understand gender dysphoria. Help them understand what it is like for the world to tell you that you’re somebody who you know deep down inside that you’re not. She should ask what it is like to find the courage to realize this. Then ask how you find the incredible bravery to share those thoughts and feeling with another person. Finally, in spite of transgender people facing massively higher rates of murder, rape, unemployment, homelessness, and many other terrors, ask how they find the valor to be who they authentically know they are.
After all of this, Couric’s response to the outcry was this is a “teachable moment.” Yeah, thanks to Carrera and Cox who made the lemonade! Okay, Couric’s train wreck did get people talking, which is always a good thing. But there was no apology. And how much did she, her employer, or her audience learn when today there’s a link on her website to “Meet the Children Who Feel They Were Born in the Wrong Body”? Really? If anything had been taught this should read, “Meet the Children Who Do Not Identify With Their Sex Assigned At Birth.” And again, there was no apology.
To understand more about being transgender we need to talk more about being human. We’re all assigned a sex at birth, but we don’t all agree with the gender that is associated with that original label. Some courageous people actually have the wherewithal to speak up, do something about it and live their life authentically, which is a lot more than many cisgender people do in the world.
Follow Fiona Dawson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fionajdawson
- Being Transgender Is Not About Surgery (transcister.wordpress.com)
- Watch Two Trans Advocates Take Katie Couric To School (bilerico.com)
- Op-ed: Can The Media Please Stop Focusing on Trans People’s Bodies? (advocate.com)
- What Katie Couric Could Have Asked Her Transgender Guests Instead Of ‘The Question’ (thinkprogress.org)
- Laverne Cox shuts down Katie Couric when asked about her genitals (thegrio.com)
- Breasts, Penises, Vaginas and Why It’s Time to Look Past Them (bethlandau.com)
- Laverne Cox flawlessly shuts down Katie Couric’s invasive questions about transgender people (salon.com)
- Katie Couric Responds To Controversy Over Invasive Question About Transgender Guest (kiramoorescloset.wordpress.com)
- Katie Couric responds to controversy with Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera (rollingout.com)
Star Laverne Cox responds perfectly to Katie Couric’s preoccupation with genitals.
First, for anyone who considers my posting of this article to be “appropriation” of transgender issues:
Get off your ass and quit your damned whining. I’m your fucking ally and at least I’m doing something instead of sitting around bashing cis people. I am posting the words and deeds of a transgender person. If one cis person learns something from my blog, then I’ve made a difference. If one trans person is not raped, tortured, murdered and her body mutilated because I happen to say the right thing to someone… or someone who’s read something I’ve written says something to someone, or someone who’s read something I’ve written says something to someone who says something to someone… then I’ve made a difference. WTF kind of positive impact do you think you’re having on the world when you sit around with your head up your ass spewing “die cis scum” when people are trying to be helpful?
My sincerest apologies for this brief digression to the 99.9% of trans people I have encountered who have bent over backwards to be nice to me. ♥ I offer no apologies to cis people because many are, in fact, “cis scum.”
Reprinted from Salon
TUESDAY, JAN 7, 2014 04:11 PM EST
“The preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people,” the actress explained to Couric
Transgender model Carmen Carrera and “Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox sat down on Monday with Katie Couric to discuss their careers, upcoming projects, and their experiences as high-profile transgender women using their platforms to bring issues of trans justice to national attention.
But Couric, it seems, was mostly interested in talking to both women about their genitalia, in order to “educate” others who may not be “familiar with transgenders.”
After her clueless deployment of “transgenders” as a noun, Couric referred to an earlier segment during which Carrera had (rightly) deflected her invasive questions about surgery and trans bodies (“I don’t want to talk about it, it’s really personal,” Carrera said in reply), then pushed the issue again to Cox, whose response was absolutely perfect:
I do feel there is a preoccupation with that. The preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people. And then we don’t get to really deal with the real lived experiences. The reality of trans peoples’ lives is that so often we are targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community. Our unemployment rate is twice the national average; if you are a trans person of color, that rate is four times the national average. The homicide rate is highest among trans women. If we focus on transition, we don’t actually get to talk about those things.
Cox then turned her attention to the recent murder of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old trans woman, and the staggering rate of violence against trans people in the United States. “By focusing on bodies we don’t focus on the lived realities of that oppression and that discrimination,” she concluded.
I haven’t posted in some time. I have a number of posts almost ready to publish, but it seems that something always comes up and they don’t get posted. And now it looks as though I won’t be posting for a while. :(
I’ve been called “cis scum.” That hurts. I’ve been that told I have no clue and could never possibly understand what it means or feels like to be trans. And while that’s true, I do know what it’s like to be unhappy with and uncomfortable in one’s own body, I do know what it’s like not to conform to society’s gender expectations and face the social consequences for acting accordingly, I do know what it’s like to be “on the outside, looking in” and never fitting in, and yes, I’ve done the “imagine-one-day-waking-up-and-discovering-you-had-a-penis” exercise and FFS, I’d cut the f’ing thing off. But today I was accused of trans appropriation and because of that, I am taking a break from writing this blog.
“Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_appropriation. From a social justice standpoint, the word appropriation is used to describe “instances where a dominant and/or majority group takes up some tangible or intangible aspect of a marginalized and/or minority community,” and is discussed at length in “Considering Trans and Queer Appropriation” in the TransAdvocate. Infact, the TransAdvocate is an overall excellent source of information regarding trans issues. They’re also on Facebook.
I do not exploit people. I have no ulterior motives or sinister intentions in writing this blog. I am disabled, have almost no energy and most of what little energy I have goes into advocating for LGBT people on Facebook with an emphasis on the “T.” I have absolutely nothing to gain from advocating for people, except for maybe a small feeling of usefulness to the world, once every now and then (I have felt like a pathetic, useless waste of DNA since I became disabled and unable to work 7+ years ago.) Most cis people do not go to trans “places” online. I do. So I take what I learn to cis people. Cis people have read my blog. Trans people have thanked me for writing it. Cis people have thanked me too—for clarifying and answering questions that they did not want to ask for fear of offending.
The Onus of Creating Trans* Acceptance Does Not Lie on Trans* People. That is a statement, the title of a blog entry in Genderwork and a link to that blog entry. Read it. What the statement means is that it is not the responsibility of trans people to fight for acceptance of trans people: It is the responsibility of cisgender people to accept trans people. I accept trans people but not all cis people do. I consider it my responsibility to do whatever I can to change this. I acknowledge my cis privilege and I am trying to use that privilege for good—not for evil. I fail to see how this can possibly be perceived as a bad thing.
All I did was to ask for permission from the members in a Facebook group to use quotes—anonymous quotes—so that I would not be appropriating trans experience by describing it, but would be using the words of actual trans people to tell cis people how their ignorant and/or insensitive comments and questions are experienced by trans individuals. After having my motives questioned, even after I stated that I would absolutely not quote anything said by the one person who was creating all the fuss, I was essentially scolded by the group administrator—the cis group administrator—who informed me in a rather condescending manner that I need to get better at listening to trans people vis-à-vis the type of advocacy that helps. I guess I’m supposed to feel grateful that I wasn’t called “cis scum.” I don’t.
So, I’m done. At least for now. You don’t want my voice? I’m gone. Have a wonderful day.
This is a story about Emma, a trans girl, mostly told by her mother. I first saw this on Suzan’s blog at http://womenborntranssexual.com/2013/06/22/emma-60-minutes/. After the video I have posted “grades” for the parents and the media regarding their behavior and apparent attitudes. (Preview: The media passes, but barely.)
The parents get an A+ for being totally supportive of Emma and honest and open about their experiences with Emma’s transgender status, particularly in such a public forum. The only fault I found with the mother is her reference to Emma not being “normal,” although this may be a language difference (there is a substantial difference between American English and Australian English)—she may have meant “not conforming to the ‘norm’ or the average, in which case she would be using “normal” as a statistical term.
Oh, where to start? The media gets a passing grade for covering the story at all, not over-sensationalizing and not acting like total morons. However they need to:
- STOP misgendering Emma by referring to her as a “boy.” Emma has never been a boy. She has ALWAYS been a girl.
- STOP misgendering Emma by referring to her as the parents’ “son.”
- STOP misgendering Emma by referring to her by her birth name. Her name is “Emma.” Have some respect and call her by her name. Do YOU like people calling YOU by an incorrect name?
- STOP, STOP, STOP misgendering Emma by using incorrect pronouns, and
- *F*F*S* it is not “in her her head.” Emma’s gender as a girl is real and it’s not going away. Is YOURS?
As I mentioned, I should have given the media an “F” for these behaviors. I begrudgingly gave them a passing grade for covering the story, not being totally insensitive and not being complete assholes—only partial ones.
In 2009, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that more than 97% of transgender individuals had experienced some form of harassment or discrimination at work [and] 47% had been fired, denied a promotion, or refused a position because of their gender identity [number formats edited.] http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/fact_sheets/transsurvey_prelim_findings.pdf
This post, about the transition of Risa Bear while a librarian at the University of Oregon, is a followup to my post “The Power of Pronouns.”
The Pronoun Problem
“It started with a bathroom,” says Risa Bear, retired University of Oregon librarian.
When her bosses learned that she had begun her gender transition, they assigned her a key to the locked, unisex, management bathroom for nearly eight months. They did this to avoid any questions or stares that would make co-workers feel uncomfortable. However, after months of sprinting the 0.8 miles across the library to the management bathroom, Bear decided that it was her time to visit the ladies’ room.
Sitting in a faded green rocking chair one year into retirement, Bear smiles and sips her tea, always aware of where the closest bathroom is. In 2006, at the age of fifty-seven, Richard Bear became Risa after undergoing genital surgery. Despite the tilted heads, cocked eyebrows, and questioning voices, Bear acknowledges that she was among the lucky few to keep their jobs while transitioning.
Dr. Jillian Weiss, a professor at Ramapo College who transitioned at the age of thirty-seven, explains that being fired is the biggest fear when an individual decides to transition.
“We spend so much time at work that this business environment transforms into a social organization,” says Weiss. “Even in a great work environment, it typically takes at least a month for people to adjust to the notion of their co-worker taking on a new identity.”
Bear emphasizes that it was because of the support of those around her that her transition was so smooth. She explains that many of the negative comments she could have heard from students or visitors of the library were deflected by a close group of friends and co-workers who continuously looked out for her.
“I had 300 friends before I transitioned, and 300 friends after I transitioned,” says Bear.
She kept her friends by being someone that other people wanted to know. No matter her gender, Bear was a friend to those around her.
In 2009, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that more than ninety-seven percent of transgender individuals had experienced some form of harassment or discrimination at work. Forty-seven percent had been fired, denied a promotion, or refused a position because of their gender identity.
However, Weiss explains that in the last decade, these trends have begun to shift. Since 1982, gender identity protection laws have begun sprouting in states in order to protect individuals from being fired because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
“It’s not right for someone to be fired because of their gender identity,” says Weiss. “If you think about it, everyone is a little transgender. A woman who works on cars and a man who likes to cook, they are both transitioning across the lines of [stereotypical] gender roles.”
Nevertheless, discrimination because of gender continues. In 2009, a federal judge ruled that Special Forces veteran Diane Schroer be compensated with $491,190 in back pay and benefits, emotional pain and suffering, and out of pocket expenses for the discrimination she faced for being a transgender person. This ruling penalized the Library of Congress for refusing Schroer a job when she announced that she was transitioning from male to female.
From the media to the government, Bear explains that transgender individuals are given the lowest amount of civil rights. In fact, “We’re no longer people, we’re objects,” she says. “If you want to make people feel like they have no rights, like they don’t even belong in society and have no right to ask to be treated like equals, start by telling them that they are less than human.”
According to Bear, the vast majority of people are accepting of transgender people. Once they have the opportunity to meet and work with a transgender individual their stereotypes disappear. However, until that time, they often know very little and assume that whatever stereotypes presented by the media and other outlets are true.
“People tend to not have an opinion,” says Bear. “The opinions they do have are generated from shows like Cops.” Bear explains that the comical representation of transgender people, large men stumbling in low-cut dresses, paints a very harmful picture.
While people are beginning to take the situation seriously, Bear emphasizes that right now, transgender individuals need “media outlets that will present people for who they are and what they do rather than what they are.”
However, without the necessary steps, transgender people still face fierce discrimination in and out of the workplace. In Illinois, the discrimination of transgender people proceeds far beyond the cubical. Victoria Kirk and Karissa Rothkopf sued Illinois for not changing their gender on their birth certificates. Still, the state explained that this was difficult because both women had their surgeries performed by doctors outside of the United States.
Whether navigating the impressions of others or lessening evidence of physical differences for the workplace, Bear explains that there is always a barrier to be broken.
Bear began her career at the University of Oregon while still Richard. However, when she decided to transition, she began leaving her co-workers subtle signs of femininity—a pair of earrings or a barrette in her hair. Bear recalls the evening of August 7, 2003. It was after a day of dressing up and taking pictures that Bear ordered her first set of pills. When she began to take estrogen, she also began to transition.
In 2006, Bear proceeded with her Real Life Test, a psychological examination to ensure that one is ready to change genders and fit into a new role. In Homecomings, Bear’s blog, she recalls a difficult segment of the transition process—changing psychologists three times to find one sympathetic to her experience.
“He inquired into my childhood. He listened to my vocabulary, enunciation and phrasing,” she writes of one psychologist. “He watched my body language. I had a feeling I was not feminine enough for him.”
After completing the required number of sessions, Bear requested a surgery. She flew to Miami where there was a surgeon who was competent, yet affordable. Post-surgery, Bear grew her hair longer and began wearing dresses that covered most of her still slightly masculine figure. Bear explains that she knew that she would never be a “beautiful woman,” but would rather settle for an “old lady.” However, she began to allow herself to wear makeup and jewelry outside of the house, in order to make her new persona more apparent to the public eye.
“I realize this makes me sound a little shallow,” Bear says. “But, I was always afraid of being seen as grotesque.”
Upon returning to work, Bear found that her colleagues were very supportive. Rarely did she encounter conflicts. The “pronoun problem,” as Bear refers to it, is one of the most hurtful mistakes that people make when working with a transgender person. This is often a slip of the tongue, when someone uses “he” instead of “she,” or vice versa.
“It’s the kind of mistake that crushes you and leaves your confidence on the floor for weeks,” Bear says as she chokes back a tear.
Weiss, however, takes a more moderate position to this issue. She explains that transgender individuals need to understand that it’s a transition for their peers as well. It takes time for the mind to adjust to new names and pronouns.
Bear suggests approaching a transgender co-worker in a gentle way with a simple variation of the question: “What pronoun would you like me to use?” She adds that this practice is done throughout the University of Oregon’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) groups and is very successful.
As a transitioning counselor, Weiss is often asked to assist companies when an employee is transitioning. When doing so, she breaks the process into three main steps.
First, she pulls all company records and policies to ensure that they are transgender friendly.
“There are so many sensitive issues that need to be changed,” explains Weiss. “And it’s not the transgender employee’s responsibility to educate their employer on the issues.”
Instead, Weiss looks at bathroom policies, paychecks, changing names on payroll, emails and much more to ensure a smooth transition.
Next, Weiss holds an intensive training for management. She talks to them about what it means to be transgender and how the transition will affect their employees. Weiss prepares management to be supportive while not changing the working environment. An ideal employer, according to Weiss, is one who seeks outside resources to aid in the transition. Hiring a human resources consultant to work specifically with the transition, or doing research that takes pressure away from the transgender individual helps show support.
Finally, a similar training is held for co-workers.
“This session is more casual, allowing everyone to ask questions and understand that the transition won’t affect their work environment.”
Weiss explains that often colleagues ask questions in good faith, but enter very personal territory that the transitioning individual may not be comfortable answering. These questions include asking what sort of surgery or medications they are using. Rather, it is appropriate to be inquisitive about how this will change their relationship with the transgender individual, not about the details of the transition itself.
“People are usually curious about what they should do if a client calls for Mr. Smith, but Mr. Smith is now Ms. Smith,” Weiss says.
These are issues that Weiss helps associates navigate and practice. She stresses that within the first month, most kinks are worked out and by the end of the year, pronoun and name changes are hardly even a conscious effort.
“It wouldn’t be the end of the world if you asked the transgender individual ‘why’ he or she is transitioning, but remember that when someone’s at work, he or she is just trying to do the job—regardless of gender,” she says.
Lonnie Sexton, a colleague and friend of Bear’s, says that as Bear gained confidence in her new identity, she became a role model to others. Sexton explains that Bear is an individual who is even tempered and has always been a joy to be around. She also speaks of Bear as a role model for students. “Those [students] grappling with transgender identity could look to [Bear] as a model of a smooth transformation. She has confidently integrated her transformation with other aspects of her life—work, friendships, and family.”
Throughout this process, Bear says that her peers were aware and supportive of her decisions.
“Risa, keep your knees closed,” repeats Bear in recollection of the best advice an associate ever gave her.
“I knew and liked Richard Bear as a co-worker,” says Sexton in reference to the transformation. “However, I was not very close with him. I was interested in his poetry, and we exchanged pleasantries, but that was the extent of our relationship. On the other hand, I have become very friendly with Risa Bear. It’s interesting that she is the same person, but I definitely relate better to her as a woman. This says more about me than her.”
“There are a lot of rules about transitioning—I broke them all,” Bear says with a chuckle. However, she advises everyone about to delve into their own transition to invest in a nice set of thank you cards and Hershey’s Kisses. “Express your gratitude and show appreciation when people are nice to you,” says Bear. She explains that her own gratitude paid off greatly when people would stop by to give her a hug or when a woman would pause and whisper “welcome” to her.