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An Open Letter to Doug and Carla Alcorn

Dear Mr and Mrs Alcorn,

First of all let me extend my condolences on the death of your daughter Leelah on December 28 2014. I do so as a parent who could not even begin to comprehend the pain of losing one of her children

I am, as your daughter was a transgender woman, and I would ask that you believe me when I tell you that it can be and most certainly is at times a living hell. A hell made not by any vengeful deity, but rather a hell made by other human beings, who, like yourselves prefer to torture others by your words and actions.

You may cling to the notion that Leelah was actually a confused boy you named Joshua at birth, but in reality she was your daughter.

Your daughter Leelah 

Difficult as that concept may be for you to grasp, she deserved better from you as her parents.  She deserved your unconditional love and support, not love and support conditional on your view of the ordered world; Not conditional on your religious beliefs; Conditional only on the fact that she was your child, a child who craved only your love and acceptance.

Both of you let her down badly.

Many people are calling for you to be prosecuted on the basis that it was your actions which led to your beautiful daughter being made to feel so worthless, so absolutely desolate, that she decided to end her own life. Can you imagine the fear and sadness she experienced in those last moments of her young life?

A life so needlessly ended.

However personally I do not believe you should be prosecuted, and let me tell you why. It is not from any position of sympathy for you, because beyond the common decency of feeling for your loss, I have none. Rather I think about Leelah. My heart breaks for her, and I feel her loss intensely, as do many others throughout the world who did not have the privilege of knowing her in person. Beyond that any prosecution would turn into a media circus which would distract attention from the greater tragedy of Leelah’s death.

Having said that don’t get the impression that you have a get out of jail free card , because believe me you do not. Both of you are responsible for your daughter’s death as if you had physically pushed her under that truck because you may as well have by your despicable treatment of her.

Leelah was your child. She should have been able to count on your unconditional love and support, but she couldn’t. Instead you demeaned her at every chance. You abused her in the worst way possible. You destroyed her fragile spirit, and for what? So you could stand up and tell everyone how much you believed in your god. How good you were. How much you loved your child.

Had you really loved her, you would not have contributed to her death. She is beyond you now. You cannot hurt her any more and that is the only consolation in all of this.

Neither of you realise the gift that you were given in Leelah and you let that gift slip through your fingers. That is the tragedy that you now have to live with for the rest of your lives.

Janice

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Enact Leelah’s Law to Ban Transgender Conversion Therapy

 

Petitioning President Barack Obama and 3 others

This petition will be delivered to:

President Barack Obama
Senator Harry Reid
Representative Nancy Pelosi

Note:  As of this writing, this petition had more than 170,000 signers. 

RIP Leelah Alcorn

Leelah Angel

If you don’t know who Leelah Alcorn was, I’m sure you haven’t crawled out from under a rock just to read my blog. Just in case, Google her name to read about her tragic suicide. Get some tissues first because the story sucks.

But the purpose of this post is to pass on information to verify that the accounts of the torment  — psychological torture, actually — by her parents is absolutely true.

Read this, then please go to Transgender Graphics’ Facebook page by clicking on the picture to post your note of thanks to Mr. Davis for his support for the transgender community:

Leelah Davis post

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Don’t forget to click on the picture to post your note of thanks to Mr. Davis for his support for the transgender community.

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To report any incident of violence towards a transgender person anywhere in the world, please do so at the Transgender Violence Tracking Portal here.

 

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Pronouns: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

pronouns

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.

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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.  ♥ 

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Emma on “60 Minutes”: Grading the Parents & the Media

girl & butterflies

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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.)

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GRADES:

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Parents:  A

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Media: D

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Discussion:

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Parents

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.

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Media

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?

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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.

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More About Pronouns

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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.”blank line for blog

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The Pronoun Problem

By: Nov 5, 2010
Photography:   •  Illustration: ,

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Tucked back at the edge of the University of Oregon Library’s main floor was Risa Bear’s territory when she worked at the University of Oregon Knight Library for twelve years.

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“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.

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Lauren Jow

Illustrations by Lauren Jow

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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.

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At age 57 in 2006, Risa Bear decided to undergo a transformation so that her outside appearance matched what she felt inside of her.

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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.

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TranCIStioning

Transition

I see transitioning not as a single event, but as a life-long process.

tran·si·tion

/tranˈziSHən/

Noun
The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.

Verb
Undergo or cause to undergo a process or period of transition: “we had to transition to a new set of products”

Synonyms
passage — change — crossing — transit

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I have neglected this blog for a long time (geez! almost a year!) not because I don’t think it’s important, but because I have a lot going on in my life and writing is not easy for me.  Actually, it’s because I am transitioning.

I am not trying to minimize the experiences of trans* people nor trying to equate my transitioning to gender transition, but there are some similarities, which I hope I can adequately articulate and not  get my trans* friends pissed off at me (screw the RatFaux-Feminists.)  I believe that many people are in constant transition, continually evolving, developing new relationships, learning from those people & those relationships and from other life experiences.  I’m not sure that all people are continually transitioning, as some seem to stagnate and not appear to learn anything, nor do they seem to grow or improve as human beings (e.g., NOMmers, Westboro Baptist Church, and other fundamentalist christians who cherry-pick the bible to justify their ignorance and hate, etc.)  I like to think that I am continually learning, growing, and becoming a more complete (not necessarily better 😉 ) person.  Perhaps that is delusional thinking, but I am going to indulge myself anyway.  After all, this is my blog and I am Queen.  😀

There are all kinds of life transitions and we celebrate many of them:  Births, birthdays, onset of puberty, questioning and/or realizing that one does not adhere to society’s cisgender and/or heterosexual norm (I did NOT say “normal”— “norm” is a statistical term), coming out (or deciding not to) as transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, etc., obtaining a driver’s license, a new job, voting for the first time, buying a car, starting high school/college/graduate school, graduations, starting/ending relationships, engagements, marriages, civil unions, anniversaries, divorces (yes, there are people who throw divorce parties), buying a house, relocating, children moving out of the house, onset of perimenopause and menopause, illnesses, changes (and possible limitations) related to aging… and, finally death—our own and those of family and friends.  Some of these transitions are marked with single events, while some take place over a period of time.  In talking to my trans* friends, I would conclude that coming out as transgender, real-life experience (RLE) (i.e., appearing in public dressed, groomed and presenting as one’s true gender,) beginning hormone therapy, and sex reassignment surgery (SRS) are among the major transition points in the life of a transgender person’s gender transition.

Before I try to describe my current transitioning (i.e., my rationalization for neglecting this blog, lol,) I am going to describe some events in my own life that may explain why I feel comfortable with trans women, and perhaps why I feel less comfortable with trans men (see my blog entry “A Penis? Uh… NO, thanks… No Penis for Me!” for my diatribe against trans men attending women’s colleges.)  First, another definition:

trans·gen·der

/tranzˈjendər/

Adjective

Definition:  A transgender person is someone whose personal idea of gender does not correlate with his or her assigned gender role.  It does not exclusively refer to transsexual persons, i.e. those who are transitioning or have transitioned from one gender to another; all transsexual persons are transgender, but not all transgender persons are transsexual.  A transgender person is anyone who fully accepts a gender identity—androgynous, hermaphroditic, intersex, transsexual, third gender, bigender, or otherwise gender non-conformistdoes not match his or her assigned gender [emphasis added.]

Common Misspellings: transgendered

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At the risk of completely alienating all of my tran* friends, I am going to say it:
~ ducks, runs & hides, wondering how to get into Witness Protection… ~

According to the broad definition of “transgender” above, I contend that I would, in fact, be considered transgender.

Now, TAKE A DEEP BREATH!  Allow me to explain.  Again, I am not trying to equate my experience with those of my transgender sisters who are transgender in the conventional sense, i.e., born with a hormonal system and/or body parts (i.e., sex) that do/does not match their gender.  I am a cisgender woman with all of the female parts (some people would argue vis-à-vis the presence of breasts, but hey, I’m 54 years old and… well… what goes up, must come down 😉 ) there has never been any question about this.  But I received some confusing childhood gender-related messages and I have never been one to take on any role that someone else has decided and assigned to me.

I would say that a person begins developing their identity as a person with their name and assigned gender.  What are the questions we ask when someone has a baby?  “Is it a girl or a boy?” and “What is her/his name?” are the first 2 that come to my mind.  And I would imagine that their name and presumed gender are the first 2 things a baby learns about themself from most parents (I don’t remember laying the gender thing on my daughter until later when I told her to be careful not to fall and crack her head open because her brains might fall out and she would turn into a boy….)

Let’s start with my name.  I have a boy’s name.  Okay, “Jody” is more common as a girl’s name now, but it is almost always spelled with an “i” or “ie” (or “ee”) instead of a “y”, and it was certainly uncommon back in the dark ages when I was born.  When I was 3 or 4, Santa called me “Judy.” Yes, this could have been a simple & understandable error, but it’s happened my whole life whenever someone screwed up my name (which happened frequently) and already knew I was female.  On the other hand, substitute teachers would take attendance, asking, “Jody? Where is he?”  It was never, ever, evershe.”  And everyone, when learning that I am, in fact, female and my name is, in fact, spelled with a “y” would inform me that I spell my name “the boy’s way.”  Dammit!  I was a girl!  And dammit!  I didn’t pick the stupid name or decide how to spell it!

Until the 4th grade, my mother made me keep my hair short despite the fact that I wanted long hair.  I don’t know whether my desire for long hair had anything to do with expressing femininity, I just wanted long hair, dammit!  I do remember at least once or twice someone mistaking me for a boy in a very public way when I was prepubescent.  It was humiliating—obviously, as I still remember it.  In any case, despite having very thin hair due to a thyroid problem, at 54 years old my hair is almost down to my waist and if it would grow any longer, it would be even longer.

I remember how happy I was when my mother allowed me to pick out my own clothes—even those I would receive as Christmas and birthday gifts.  I really hated some of the clothes she bought for me before that.   I recall 1 specific incident about a teacher thinking that my raincoat belonged to a boy and this was expressed in a public and very humiliating manner.  I’ve never gone for a lot of pink, ruffly lacy crap.

When I started elementary school, girls were not permitted to wear pants to school.  Yes, this is true.  When the policy changed and I told my mother I wanted to wear pants, at first she didn’t believe me (and I was a painfully honest child, so that created other issues) and then she reluctantly allowed me to wear “nice” pants, but only twice/week.  I was what then was called a “tomboy” and didn’t like wearing dresses because I was very active and dresses are not conducive to, for example, doing cartwheels.  I didn’t play with dolls or other “girl” toys (I never had a Barbie) and preferred to play outside, riding my bike, climbing trees, digging in the dirt or exploring the woods.

I clearly remember being at a community swimming pool with my entire family (I must have been about 11) and my parents very loudly discussing the hair on my legs and whether it was time for me to start shaving my legs.  I was already extremely self-conscious (I think my mother had already started telling my sister that she was “the pretty one” and I was “the smart one”; you can imagine the messages we got from that!) and this public humiliation made it worse.  And, no, my mother did not allow me to start shaving my legs for a couple of years after that even though kids made fun of my hairy legs.

Despite my perception that I had a body resembling that of a  young boy, I started dating at 12½ and was “boy-crazy” for years.  It wasn’t about sex:  I didn’t have sex until almost 19.  I came from a family that did not express love or affection either verbally or physically in any meaningful way, so that probably accounts for most of my need for romantic relationships (I couldn’t stand having anyone else touch me), but maybe I was also trying to prove my femininity… to the world or to myself.  I don’t know.   (Having recently been told by a rather, shall I say, “voluptuous” woman that I have the body of an adolescent boy, I LMAO and took it as a compliment!  At my age that is definitely a good thing!  Poor old witch didn’t mean it as a compliment though.)

In school I always did well in math & science which I was not “supposed” to do because I was a girl.  Can you believe that BS?  But I also did well in foreign languages and everything else.  The one clear identity I always had was that of student (and employee) with a role to achieve and excel.  And for the most part, I did.  But I didn’t have a clear sense about what it meant to be a woman.  When someone walked into a room with their baby, I was more likely to leave the room than I was to do the baby talk thing.  I refused to let anyone push me into traditional roles but encountered pressures and stereotypes (especially when working in a male-dominated field) on an ongoing basis. Even when I changed fields and entered the female-dominated field of professional social work, I wasn’t the stereotypical social worker because I’m not the warm and pleasant touchy-feely outgoing type person that everyone likes; in fact, I’m quite introverted and don’t give a rat’s ass whether people like me or not.

When the biological clock kicked in and I gave birth to my daughter at 36, I assumed the role of mother in addition to employee.   Naturally I wanted to excel.  I read baby books, went to La Leche League meetings, read more books, talked to friends, read books, decided to ignore conflicting information I received from people I didn’t trust & to trust professionals and my own instincts, & read more books.  I used cloth diapers, breastfed and made my own baby food.  I did my best as a single parent to give my child the love,  support & sense of identity I never got while growing up.

When I became disabled & no longer able to work I was absolutely devastated.  Work had always been at the core of my identity, and until my daughter was born, my entire identity essentially revolved around work.  When my child ended up in foster care (through no fault of mine—a very loonnngggg and unpleasant story) and having had my only remaining real identity in essence ripped from me, I was lost.   I had been forced into several major transitions in my life but was so busy grieving the losses that I did not recognize the opportunities that these overlapping transitions precipitated by these horrendous life-altering events had provided for me.

I became an advocate and activist for LGBT people and others on Facebook.  I learned about issues and hate groups, and helped get some hate pages/groups shut down on Facebook.  I met 100s of new people, made new friends and revived friendships that had been inactive for decades. I learned the word “pomosexual” and have appropriated it to describe my sexual orientation.  I learned the word “cisgender” and learned that I am one.  I learned a lot about gender and am starting to wrap my head around the concept of non-binary gender.  I learned (mostly by reading) a lot about transgender issues and developed friendships with several transgender women who I consider my sisters.  I have learned about myself and learned to let the little things go and deal with the big things more calmly (which came with a price.)  I know more about the foster care system in the State of Florida than anyone would ever want to know (it’s even worse than people think it is.)  I learned that even people smart enough to graduate from law school can be too stupid to learn to understand that bipolar disorder is a medical—biological—disorder of the brain.  I learned that you can’t fix stupid and no matter how good a parent you are and how you raise them, some kids just don’t turn out the way one would expect them to.

During and prior to that period of transitioning, I was subject to physical, psychological and emotional trauma and there were times that my life was literally in danger.  I developed Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and continue to meet the full criteria for the disorder, although I am less frequently exposed to the source of trauma and lethality has been diminished by making some changes in my life.   One of the things I had to do to survive during that time was to numb myself emotionally and I continue to experience “feeling[s] of detachment or estrangement from others” and “restricted range of  affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings.”  Therefore, a primary goal in my current period of transition is to take back my life:  i.e., to re-establish a stable sense of personal identity, become more functional physically & cognitively, work towards experiencing a wider range of emotions, feel productive—giving something back to the world, and find more purpose in my life.  So, that’s what I’ve been doing.  I think writing this has served some of these purposes.  Why the hell you read it is beyond me. 🙂

blue butterfly

This is how I view my current period of transition.

End of pos

A Deafening Silence

A Deafening Silence

Posted on Alexandra BillingsHuffington Post blog on July 10, 2012
Thank you to Suzan for making me aware of this post on her blog Women Born Transsexual

It was our second date, and he was just as kind and just as funny as he’d been the week before. Dan wasn’t the best looking guy in the room, but he knew his way around a joke, and he never ask me to pay for dinner. I was hooked.

He was a big guy, over six feet tall, blonde hair, and had beautiful hazel eyes. We bumped into each other at the local grocery store one afternoon after I accidentally threw myself under his shopping cart. Since that time, we’d gone to a movie and been to dinner. Our second date was to take place at his apartment where he was going to fix his famous homemade pizza. I’ve never been a big pizza fan, but I liked Dan, and I’d only been transitioning for a few years and at that time, any date was a great date. As long as there wasn’t any wacky sexual expectations, or signs of psychotic mania in the hallway, I was in. I was twenty two, and already completely and utterly desperate.

I was never one of those people in my community who lived a lie. I was Transgender and was never ashamed of it. After a suicide attempt at 16, when I finally found my Trans brothers and sisters, it was the first real breath I’d taken. I felt a huge weight lift off me, and every voice that told me I was insane, or wrong, or headed straight to Hell, was squelched. So I never went around pretending my past didn’t exist. I never purposely deceived people. I wanted to live in this new body I was constructing because for the first time in my life, my reflection was starting to match my spirit. I couldn’t have been happier, and I wanted to tell the world about it.

And so Dan was fully aware of what I was, where I came from, and where my heart was, and he was fine with it.

“I see you. All I know is what I see.”

He told me that within the first twenty minutes, which is why I said yes to the homemade pizza thing. I figured I’d found someone true and someone pure, and I wanted desperately to live with it for as long as he’d let me. And I’d do what I could to keep it going. And that included choking down cooked dough and tomato sauce.

We were sitting on his couch with the Chicago skyline blinking behind us and some Melissa Manchester blaring in the background. We sipped wine, chatted, and as the evening wore on, I suggested we see each other the next week. It was getting late, and taking the El past ten at night was always risky. Dan then looked me in the eye and took my hand:

“I want you to stay.” He said softly.

“Next time.” I said firmly.

I moved him aside and headed for the front door and my coat that was hanging on the brown, three-pronged hat rack in his hallway.

Suddenly, and without warning, I felt his hand on my shoulder.    He turned me quickly toward him, and kissed me. The kiss was hard and almost painful. He then put his hands around my waist and pulled me toward him. I tried to get free, but the more I struggled, the tighter his grip became. My heart began to race in a way I’d never felt before, and my body went into a hyper-speed panic that I felt in the pit of my stomach. I knew I was in terrible, terrible trouble.

I put my hand on his thigh, and as he began to slowly release me, I balled up my fist, and hit him square in the groin. He jumped back in pain, and I turned toward the door, sweating and crying. My voice was stuck in me somehow. I couldn’t seem to scream, and my breath became shallow and deep. I also couldn’t really think. I saw the doorknob, but turning it became almost impossible. And as my hand reached for the sleeve of my coat, I was whisked back into the living room, and fell flat on my back. I landed inches from the coffee table, still clinging onto my coat. Dan’s eyes were red and huge and they glared at me with a rage and an anger that filled up the room. As I wriggled and tried to squirm away, before I knew it, he was on top of me, pinning down my wrists and spreading my thighs. And as he came close to me again, with his mouth near my neck, he felt between my legs, and popped his head up:

“You…?!” was all I heard.

His breath got hotter and closer to me, and he flipped me over on my stomach and began tearing at my dress.

I was raped that night.

I never went to the police and I never told another living soul. None of my friends knew, no one I worked with, and no family member ever found out. I kept this in me for almost 20 years. It was 1983, and being what I was, was not only against the law in Illinois, it was unheard of. I remember once, a girlfriend of mine was being chased by her boyfriend who was coming at her with a kitchen knife, and when she found a parked police car; out of breath and near hysterics, told them what she was running from, and the two cops laughed and told her to “act like a man.” So, I knew deep down that going to the police was useless.

In Sweden, where gay marriage is legal and where they lead the world in the pursuit of gay rights and gay legislation, a Transgender woman was raped in front of her apartment complex. The attacker, however, was charged with assault, because the judge claimed that:

“We believe that he wanted to rape… this woman. But as she proved to be a man, his plan [would] never have been possible.”

The judge concluded that the rape was “invalid” because the victim was anatomically a male. Instead, the perpetrator was convicted of assault and will pay just over $2,000 in damages to the woman.

I don’t know the answer to where it is we belong as a community. We’re the “T” on the end of LGBT, and we’re liars when we try and blend into a meeting of feminists. We’re standing on the outside of a lot of windows, and no one’s really championing for us to come in and tell our story. And in our own world, with our own people, there are Transgender men and women who proclaim their gender as the one given to them by whatever doctor they’ve written checks to. If we’re confused about where to go, and who we are, how can we expect the mainstream of society not to be either?

Whatever the answer is, on the way to finding it, on the way to trying to live with each other and be with each other, we have to stand our ground and we have to do it with assurance and power. But we can’t do it alone. We need help. We need other people. And we desperately need each other.

I was raped. I was raped and it took me years to figure out that it wasn’t my fault, that I wasn’t to blame, and that it wasn’t my shame I was carrying around. Whatever it is anyone thinks of me, I was raped. We’ve taken huge steps in the last couple of decades. We’re here and we’re noticed, and we matter. I feel that. I love my community. I’m proud of who we are and where we’re headed, but I sometimes feel that when I step outside my own front door, I’m truly on my own. My country doesn’t have my back.

And as a world — a world of change and newness and brilliance — if we continue to keep our own prejudices and ignorance in the forefront of our jurisdiction and societal laws, we’ll eventually find our compassion and kindness will suffer. And soon, without warning and with total conviction, the silence around us will be deafening.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alexandra-billings/a-deafening-silence_1_b_1662968.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

Cisgender Privilege Cis People Take for Granted

If you’re cisgender, have you ever even thought about these things?  Probably not—you probably take these things for granted because you have “cisgender privilege.”  Trans* people have to consider all of these on a daily basis.

30+ Examples of Cisgender Privilege


  1. Use public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest.

  2. Use public facilities such as gym locker rooms and store changing rooms without stares, fear, or anxiety.

  3. Strangers don’t assume they can ask you what your genitals look like and how you have sex.

  4. Your validity as a man/woman/human is not based on how much surgery you’ve had or how well you “pass” as non-transgender.

  5. You have the ability to walk through the world and generally blend-in, not being constantly stared or gawked at, whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of your gender expression.

  6. You can access gender exclusive spaces such as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, Greek Life, or Take Back the Night and not be excluded due to your trans status.

  7. Strangers call you by the name you provide, and don’t ask what your “real name” [birth name] is and then assume that they have a right to call you by that name.

  8. You can reasonably assume that your ability to acquire a job, rent an apartment, or secure a loan will not be denied on the basis of your gender identity/expression.

  9. You have the ability to flirt, engage in courtship, or form a relationship and not fear that your biological status may be cause for rejection or attack, nor will it cause your partner to question their sexual orientation.

  10. If you end up in the emergency room, you do not have to worry that your gender will keep you from receiving appropriate treatment, or that all of your medical issues will be seen as a result of your gender.

  11. Your identity is not considered a mental pathology (“gender identity disorder” in the DSM IV) by the psychological and medical establishments.

  12. You have the ability to not worry about being placed in a sex-segregated detention center, holding facility, jail or prison that is incongruent with your identity.

  13. You have the ability to not be profiled on the street as a sex worker because of your gender expression.

  14. You are not required to undergo an extensive psychological evaluation in order to receive basic medical care.

  15. You do not have to defend you right to be a part of “Queer,” and gays and lesbians will not try to exclude you from “their” equal  rights movement because of your gender identity (or any equality movement, including feminist rights).

  16. If you are murdered (or have any crime committed against you), your gender expression will not be used as a justification for your murder (“gay panic”) nor as a reason to coddle the perpetrators.

  17. You can easily find role models and mentors to emulate who share your identity.

  18. Hollywood accurately depicts people of your gender in films and television, and does not solely make  your identity the focus of a dramatic storyline, or the punchline for a joke.

  19. Be able to assume that everyone you encounter will understand your identity, and not think you’re confused, misled, or hell-bound when you reveal it to them.

  20. Being able to purchase clothes that match your gender identity without being refused service/mocked by staff or questioned on your genitals.

  21. Being able to purchase shoes that fit your gender expression without having to order them in special sizes or asking someone to custom-make them.

  22. No stranger checking your identification or drivers license will ever insult or glare at you because your name or sex does not match the sex they believed you to be based on your gender expression.

  23. You can reasonably assume that you will not be denied services at a hospital, bank, or other institution because the staff does not believe the gender marker on your ID card to match your gender identity.

  24. Having your gender as an option on a form.

  25. Being able to tick a box on a form without someone disagreeing, and telling you not to lie.  Yes, this happens.

  26. Not fearing interactions with police officers due to your gender identity.

  27. Being able to go to places with friends on a whim knowing there will be bathrooms there you can use.

  28. You don’t have to convince your parents of your true gender and/or have to earn your parents’ and siblings’ love and respect all over again.

  29. You don’t have to remind your extended family over and over to use proper gender pronouns (e.g., after transitioning).

  30. You don’t have to deal with old photographs that did not reflect who you truly are.

  31. Knowing that if you’re dating someone they aren’t just looking to satisfy a curiosity or kink pertaining to your gender identity (e.g., the “novelty” of having sex with a trans person).

  32. Being able to pretend that anatomy and gender are irrevocably entwined when having the “boy parts and girl parts” talk with children, instead of explaining the actual complexity of the issue.

http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2011/11/list-of-cisgender-privileges/

“I Don’t Love You Because of Who You Are”

“I Don’t Love You Because of Who You Are” is the worst thing a parent can say to their transgender child, no matter how old the “child.”  Trans* people rejected by their parents are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide and 2 times more likely to become HIV infected.

A report on some of the youngest transgender kids, including a six-year-old girl who was born a boy, a 10-year-old boy who lives as a girl and a 16-year-old-boy who was born a girl. Barbara Walters talks to these transgender children, all diagnosed with gender identity disorder (GID), as well as to their parents, who are allowing their children to live in the gender they identify with in order to save them from a future of heartache and pain. They are sharing their personal stories to increase future understanding of transgender children.  Aired 27th April 2007.  http://www.squidoo.com/my-daughter-dresses-like-a-boy#module160154150

Click on the thumbnail to watch each video:

          Part 1                          Part 2                         Part 3

                          

Daphne

Originally posted as a note in Facebook on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 5:14pm ·

I am writing my “Being Transgender” series of notes for my intelligent and open-minded Facebook friends–those who do not live their lives in terms of prejudice and stereotypes–who may be curious about gender and transgender issues and what it means to be transgender and are interested in the experiences of transgender people but are too polite and civilized to ask.

If this applies to you, read on. If it does not, do not read this note and by all means, keep your ignorant comments to yourself  because I will not allow ANYONE to insult my transgender friends on my page. GOT IT?  NO EXCEPTIONS… I don’t care how long we’ve been friends.  Polite, thoughtful questions and comments are welcome and I’m sure will also be appreciated by my transgender friends.

Daphne Shaed, College Student, Activist, Advocate

Daphne.  Daphne Shaed lives on beautiful Vancouver Island, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.  Daphne is beautiful, fabulous, awesome, amazing, prodigious, fascinating and many more complimentary adjectives. If you fail to see these qualities in her, then “bugger off!” as Daphne would say.  I met Daphne on Facebook.  Continue…

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