WBEZ | transgender http://www.wbez.org/tags/transgender Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: New discoveries about ancient mummies in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-01/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummies <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Spo0ky mummy Flickr Chris Devers.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We hear how researchers are discovering new things about the long dead. Plus, we hear about the Department of Justice&#39;s new initiative to help the transgender population, and the music of Rachel Ries.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummie/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummie.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummie" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: New discoveries about ancient mummies in Chicago" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 08:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-01/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummies Morning Shift: The unique challenges facing the transgender community http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-09/morning-shift-unique-challenges-facing-transgender <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flickr University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The transgender community faces many challenges - including ignorance from the general population. We talk with some leaders in the trans community in Chicago about how everyone can be more educated.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-unique-challenges-facing-the-tra/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-unique-challenges-facing-the-tra.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-unique-challenges-facing-the-tra" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The unique challenges facing the transgender community" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 09 Jan 2014 08:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-09/morning-shift-unique-challenges-facing-transgender Gay advocacy group wants Chicago to suspend sister city program with Moscow http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-advocacy-group-wants-chicago-suspend-sister-city-program-moscow-108236 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Moscow Sister City_130731.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>LGBT advocacy group Equality Illinois wants Chicago to suspend its sister city program with the Russian capital of Moscow.</p><p>The <a href="http://chicagosistercities.com/sister-cities/moscow/">program</a> organizes local events, such as the Russia Day celebrations and the Russian-American Business Forum, to help strengthen cultural and commercial ties between the two cities.</p><p>Russia recently passed a law that bans people from holding gay pride rallies and informing minors about the LGBT community.</p><p>Equality Illinois also calls for Illinoisans to cancel business dealings with or travel plans to the eastern European country.</p><p>Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov says some local businesses have already stopped selling Russian products.</p><p>&ldquo;We live in a city that is very conscious of treating everyone with equal dignity and respect, and by us partnering with Moscow, a city that&rsquo;s... the opposite of where Chicago stands, I think we&rsquo;re going to send a strong message by saying that enough is enough.&rdquo; Cherkasov said.</p><p>Chicago Sister Cities International says they must continue the program so LGBT Russians might still feel welcome here. A statement from the organization also noted that it&rsquo;s important to keep the lines of communication open.</p><p><em>Lee Jian Chung is a WBEZ arts and culture intern. Follow him <a href="http://www.twitter.com/jclee89">@jclee89</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 30 Jul 2013 17:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-advocacy-group-wants-chicago-suspend-sister-city-program-moscow-108236 Privilege in a dress: Arrested Development's transphobic slip http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/privilege-dress-arrested-developments-transphobic-slip-106843 <p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2x16_Meat_the_Veals_%2831%29.png" style="line-height: 1.15; width: 516px; height: 290px;" title="Mrs. Featherbottom attempts to fly on an umbrella in 'Meat the Veals,' one of the classic program's all-time great episodes. (Still from Arrested Development)" /></p><p dir="ltr">Sometimes there&#39;s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can&#39;t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in. However, other times things just suck. This week, <em>Arrested Development</em> sucked.</p><p dir="ltr">I&rsquo;ve been excited for months about the promise of the show&rsquo;s return. <em>Arrested Development</em> is one of my favorite things in the world, a show that never sacrificed intelligence in its quest for jokes. Creator/writer/producer Mitchell Hurwitz created a show that was dense with jokes, some so brilliantly weird that it took viewers multiple views to pick up on the humor. Hurwitz reportedly spent weeks crafting some of the episodes, and it took Hurwitz five years to get the reboot off the ground. If the <em>AD</em> could come back, he wanted to get it right. The viewers deserved that.</p><p dir="ltr">However, a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.queerty.com/arrested-development-makes-tranny-joke-in-new-ad-20130421/" target="_blank">recent joke</a> from the show&rsquo;s promotional materials calls into question that capacity for caring about their audience. Writer Zinnia Jones&nbsp;<a href="http://freethoughtblogs.com/zinniajones/2013/04/arrested-development-of-good-taste/" target="_blank">reports</a> that the show has been using transphobic humor to sell its relaunch. One advertisement, which has now been pulled, asks viewers, &ldquo;Who&rsquo;s your favorite tranny granny?&rdquo; The caption is next to pictures of Tobias in drag, as Mrs. Featherbottom, and George Sr. in a dress.</p><p dir="ltr">On the joke, Jones writes,</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s...not funny at all. It&rsquo;s the sort of lazy humor that every comedy, given enough time, will arrive at eventually &ndash; like a Godwin&rsquo;s Law of transphobia. These low-effort attempts at comedy are made under the assumption that the mere idea of men in dresses, or trans people, is inherently laughable. Treating both as though they were the same is just the icing on the cake.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Although the show heavily featured &ldquo;men in dresses,&rdquo; the joke was never about Tobias wearing a dress. It was about the delusion that he could trick his family into believing that he was a woman, despite giving one of the worst drag performances in history. <em>Arrested Development</em> wasn&rsquo;t critiquing Tobias for wearing a dress; the show lampooned him for being a bad actor &mdash; and a hideously self-involved one.</p><p dir="ltr">Throughout the show, the characters&rsquo; persistent narcissism is the real target. The Bluths are the worst, most clueless people in the world, and that makes them hilarious. It&rsquo;s smart comedy about stupid people.</p><p dir="ltr">However, this joke is what is clueless and stupid. Instead of making the Bluths the butt of the joke, it&rsquo;s an affront to transgender viewers who believe in the show and are as happy to see it return as the rest of us. The show has a strong following in the queer and trans communities because a) it&rsquo;s funny b) we hate George W. Bush, too and c) it&rsquo;s hella queer inclusive, with multiple out recurring characters and a notable lesbian star. (Hi, Portia!)</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Arrested Development </em>premiered in 2003, when few shows would touch queer audiences with a 10-foot pole. <em>AD</em> made us feel embraced, and it&rsquo;s treatment of Tobias is surprisingly sweet when you think about it. What&rsquo;s considered funny about Tobias isn&rsquo;t that he&rsquo;s gay; it&rsquo;s that he thinks people don&rsquo;t know. Most shows would shame him for it. In <em>Arrested Development</em>, his wife and daughter stick by him anyway. What&rsquo;s more affirming than that?</p><p dir="ltr">This humor achieves the opposite effect, using transphobic language to marginalize transgender viewers. Jones writes,</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Here it is, the all-too-frequent reminder that this is not for you. It&rsquo;s meant for other people, so that they can laugh at you. It tells us that the fact of our humanity wasn&rsquo;t actually taken into account at any point between someone having an idea, someone cobbling it together, someone approving it, and someone clicking &lsquo;post&rsquo;. Just being able to go about our lives would be too much to ask &ndash; we have to be someone&rsquo;s punchline.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Whenever jokes like these are made, people are quick to defend it as un-PC and the creators as equal opportunity offenders. However, what is equal opportunity about this joke? For the trans community, &ldquo;tr*nny&rdquo; is considered a hateful slur, comparable to using the &ldquo;n-word,&rdquo; the six letter &ldquo;f-word&rdquo; or the Jewish &ldquo;k-word.&rdquo; You would never see <em>Arrested Development</em> ask its audience who their favorite &ldquo;n-word&rdquo; is.</p><p dir="ltr">What makes it okay with trans people? Where was the outrage?</p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s because in comedy, we often see hierarchies of offense &mdash; people who are seen as okay to make fun of without much backlash. When <em>The New Normal</em> called intersex people &ldquo;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/because-racism-so-last-year-new-normal-making-fun-intersex-people-now-104822" target="_blank">pathetic</a>,&rdquo; many viewers barely batted an eye. People don&rsquo;t seem to give a flying truck that <em>Two Broke Girls</em> regularly makes Asians into desexualized, &quot;<a href="http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/post/_/id/41440/yo-is-this-racist-2-broke-girls-and-the-new-long-duk-dong-we-never-asked-for" target="_blank">Yellow Panic stereotypes</a>.&quot; When someone says the word &ldquo;f*ggot,&rdquo; we know to be scandalized. Look at what&rsquo;s happened to Isaiah Washington and Mel Gibson. Homophobia helped kill their careers.</p><p dir="ltr">When Stacy Lambe of Queerty&nbsp;<a href="http://www.queerty.com/arrested-development-makes-tranny-joke-in-new-ad-20130421/" target="_blank">wrote about</a> <em>Arrested Development</em>&rsquo;s transphobic slip up, many commenters called Lambe and Jones&rsquo; critique &ldquo;attention-seeking outrage.&rdquo; Eric Auerbach wrote, &ldquo;Transphobic humor? Give me a f*cking break.&rdquo; TinoTurner felt that the criticism only showed that Queerty is &ldquo;really hard up for stories.&rdquo; The respondent instructed Lambe to &ldquo;f*ck off.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">By telling trans people they don&rsquo;t have a right to be offended, it upholds the idea that it&rsquo;s okay to make fun of some and not others, a marginalization that shows trans people aren&rsquo;t worth caring about. We saw this same calculation in a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/4ad20b4edf/michael-shannon-reads-the-insane-sorority-letter" target="_blank"><em>Funny or Die </em>video</a> this week, when Michael Shannon read off Rebecca Martinson&rsquo;s infamous &ldquo;sorority girl letter.&rdquo; Shannon and <em>Funny or Die</em> took out Martinson&rsquo;s use of the word &ldquo;f*ggot&rdquo; but kept in &ldquo;ret*rded.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">What makes it okay to offend differently abled folks? <em>Funny or Die</em>&rsquo;s misguided idea that they aren&rsquo;t part of the audience. They aren&rsquo;t watching the video to get offended. My brother is differently abled. Just because he isn&rsquo;t watching doesn&rsquo;t mean he doesn&rsquo;t receive that message every day, when kids push him at school or mock his inability to read. He isn&rsquo;t just called a &ldquo;ret*rd.&rdquo; He&rsquo;s also called a &ldquo;f*ggot,&rdquo; just like I was &mdash; but for different reasons. The other kids at school don&rsquo;t think he&rsquo;s gay. They want him to feel weak and pathetic. It&rsquo;s about power.</p><p dir="ltr">These words shouldn&#39;t just be painful for him. They should be painful for all of us. Ableism, homophobia and transphobia are an embarassment to everyone.</p><p dir="ltr">At its best, comedy can work as a force for healing and take that power back. <em>Jezebel</em>&rsquo;s Lindy West&nbsp;<a href="http://jezebel.com/5925186/how-to-make-a-rape-joke" target="_blank">reminds us</a> that the best jokes work upward, critiquing those who are in power, rather than mocking the already marginalized. The best comedy opens up a space to ask questions about society, offering us an avenue to laugh and to critique. Although we think about it just as entertainment, comedy is about social justice. It&rsquo;s giving a voice to the voiceless by finding the laughter in our pain.</p><p dir="ltr">A&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thebacklot.com/louis-cks-extraordinary-ten-minutes-of-gay-tv/06/2010/" target="_blank">scene from</a> the TV show <em>Louie</em> is a model for how boundary-pushing comedy should work. In the scene, Louie C.K. and his comedian friends discuss gay sex with Rick Crom, an out gay comedian. They ask Crom probing and often homophobic questions about his &ldquo;lifestyle,&rdquo; which exposes their discomfort with the issue. The scene sets itself up for bigotry as a way to combat it. Crom schools them:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&quot;I don&rsquo;t think about p*ssy. I don&rsquo;t care what you guys do. You&rsquo;re the one&rsquo;s who asked me. You ask me this sh*t every time I&rsquo;m here. I talk about gay sex more with you guys than I do any of my gay friends. You guys are obsessed.&quot;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">The scene then abruptly turns. After Crom&rsquo;s speech, Louie C.K. asks if Crom gets offended when C.K. uses the word &ldquo;f*ggot&rdquo; in his stand up. Crom tells him he can technically use any word he wants, because he knows C.K. doesn&rsquo;t mean to offend, but C.K. has to realize what that word says to gay men. Using that word tells gay men that, like the bundle of sticks it refers to, they deserve to be tied up and burned. &ldquo;F*ggot&rdquo; affirms the our history of violence against queer people.</p><p dir="ltr">This scene was an extraordinary moment in television, proving that humor can be a tool for dialogue and education. It can help to heal our wounds, instead of reopening them. In taking the transphobic material down without apology or comment, <em>Arrested Development</em> hopes trans people and their allies weren&#39;t paying attention and that no blood will be shed over it. But we&#39;re watching. We&#39;re a part of your audience. We expect better.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can find Nico on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang" target="_blank">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang" target="_blank">Twitter</a> or&nbsp;<a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">Tumblr</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/privilege-dress-arrested-developments-transphobic-slip-106843 The (un)equal sign: It’s time to break up with HRC http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/unequal-sign-it%E2%80%99s-time-break-hrc-106422 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/seeing-red_20130327142736_320_240.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: tahoma, geneva, sans-serif;"><object height="338" width="601"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633106819470%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633106819470%2F&amp;set_id=72157633106819470&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633106819470%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633106819470%2F&amp;set_id=72157633106819470&amp;jump_to=" height="338" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="601"></embed></object></span></span></p><p>When you look at the pink and red Human Rights Campaign equal sign&nbsp;that many queers and their allies displayed on Facebook <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/you-can-support-equality-without-being-marriage-106303">last week</a>, you might see a simple testatment to marriage equality. You might see a promise to fight for equal rights. However, a recent <a href="http://www.back2stonewall.com/2013/04/hrc-discriminates-scotus-hearing-discrimination.html">incident</a> forces us to ask this question: Members of the community might stand with HRC, but does HRC <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2013/03/hrc-you-have-problem.html">stand with them</a>? Does the organization&#39;s commitment to equality <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rebecca-juro/even-after-all-these-years-hrc-still-doesnt-get-it_b_2989826.html?utm_hp_ref=politics&amp;ir=Politics">include everyone</a>?</p><p dir="ltr">Sadly, the answer is no.</p><p dir="ltr">When gay marriage supporters gathered in <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2013/03/what-hell-happened-in-dc-today.html">Washington, D.C.</a> to stand against DOMA and Prop. 8 last week, attendees brought rainbow banners that suggest the diversity of our community. But at the rally, the HRC proved its true color-blindness.</p><p dir="ltr">During the rally HRC staffers asked one of the attendees to move a flag bearing the transgender equality symbol away from the stage, as it was too close to the podium. This was after another HRC staffer <a href="http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/03/29/activists-seeing-red-over-hrc-antics-at-scotus-hearings/">asked</a> the holder what the sign meant and was upset to find that <em>there were transgender people there, too</em>. The staffer then allegedly <a href="http://thedcgayz.tumblr.com/post/46475109689/hrc-asks-trans-protesters-to-remove-trans-flag-from">told the</a> attendee that &ldquo;marriage is not a transgender issue.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In defense of the move, the HRC claimed that many rally goers were asked to move their flags, so as to stage a patriotic photo-op. <em>Yay, America</em>. <a href="http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/03/29/activists-seeing-red-over-hrc-antics-at-scotus-hearings/">According to HRC</a>:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Featuring American flags at our program was the best way to illustrate this unifying issue which is why when managing the area behind the podium, several people were asked to move who were carrying organizational banners, pride flags or any other flag that was not an American flag.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">I&rsquo;m not quite fluent in &lsquo;Murican, but this statement is, how do you say, total bullsh*t: Jerame Davis of National Stonewall Democrats <a href="http://www.bilerico.com/2013/03/hrc_and_the_trans_flag_incident.php?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BilericoProject+(The+Bilerico+Project)">witnessed</a> the <a href="http://dearcispeople.tumblr.com/post/46651162487/the-hrc-told-a-trans-person-and-activist-to-take-down-a">altercation</a> and confirmed the attendee&rsquo;s story.</p><p dir="ltr">Davis writes: &ldquo;I was there. I saw it happen. It was only the HRC reps asking for the trans flag to be moved. If they&rsquo;d only asked once, I&rsquo;d have given them a pass, but they continued to harrass this person over a flag.&rdquo; According to Davis, it was only the transgender attendees who were asked to relocate.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://planetransgender.blogspot.com/2013/03/undocumented-queers-demand-hrc.html?showComment=1364700470366">John M. Becker</a> of Freedom to Marry <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2013/03/hrc-you-have-problem.html">stood behind</a> Davis&rsquo; account. He stated:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&rsquo;m sure it was not HRC&#39;s intent to exclude or deeply offend, but regardless of the circumstances, people felt excluded and were deeply offended. HRC really should <a href="http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/united-for-marriage-coalition-apologizes-for-mistreatment-of-trans-and-undocumented-activists-hrc-signs-on-then-denies/politics/2013/03/29/63826">apologize</a> for this regrettable incident before it casts any larger a shadow on an otherwise beautiful event.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">HRC initially <a href="http://transitiontransmission.tumblr.com/post/46519107813/hrc-denies-any-wrongdoing-in-transgender-flag-incident">ignored criticism</a> of its actions, but as opposition to the organization&#39;s douchery spread over social media, the group was forced to <a href="http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2013/04/01/hrc-and-coalition-apologize-silencing-undocumented-trans">apologize</a>. HRC issued a statement that read in part:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&quot;We apologize for having caused harm to the individuals involved. Apologies are being made individually and collectively and we are working to make amends.&quot;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Then they frowned, collectively put their hands in their pockets and spent the rest of the day sulking in their room while playing XBox.</p><p dir="ltr">A forced mea culpa is better than<em> noa</em> culpa, I guess, but I don&#39;t think we can take the organization&#39;s apologies seriously. This is <a href="http://sundial.csun.edu/2011/10/equality-for-some-a-critique-of-the-human-rights-campaign/">far, far from the first time</a> the Human Rights Campaign <a href="http://spaceykate.tumblr.com/post/46544373088/about-those-red-equal-signs-that-are-all-over-the-place">has been criticized</a> for its <a href="http://amplifyyourvoice.org/u/jordan/2012/11/28/hrc-releases-municipal-equality-index-throws-trans-under-the-bus-again">relationship</a> with trans people. Remember: This is the same organization whose former Executive Director Elizabeth Birch said that fighting for transgender inclusion in employment legislation <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2007/10/why-transgender-community-hates-hrc.html">would happen</a> &ldquo;over [her] dead body.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The HRC is kind of like that boyfriend you had in college who claimed to &ldquo;love you so much&rdquo; but then wouldn&rsquo;t take you out on dates or be seen with you. You never got to meet his friends, and you always ended up paying for him on dates. When it came to the bedroom, it was all about him. &ldquo;Next time, it&rsquo;s your turn,&quot; he would say. &quot;Just be patient. I&rsquo;ll get to you.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">How many more ways can HRC tell trans people, &quot;I&#39;m just not that into you?&quot; The organization has been neglecting trans rights and taking trans support for granted for years, whether that meant <a href="http://www.questioningtransphobia.com/?cat=96">throwing trans people under the bus</a> during the <a href="http://www.campkc.com/campkc-content.php?Page_ID=952">ENDA legislation negotiations</a> or having <a href="http://www.bilerico.com/2009/02/hrc_throws_trans_health_equity_under_the.php">transgender health initially left out</a> in HRC&rsquo;s Corporate Equality Index. In a survey on the nationwide <a href="http://amplifyyourvoice.org/u/jordan/2012/11/28/hrc-releases-municipal-equality-index-throws-trans-under-the-bus-again">Municipal Equality Index</a> in 2012, the group referred to transgender inclusions as &ldquo;bonus points.&rdquo; <em>Bonus</em>, meaning &ldquo;doing more than what is expected.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In the brief, the HRC referred to trans protections as &ldquo;not achievable by all people at this time.&rdquo; HRC didn&rsquo;t even include trans folks in their mission statement until 2001:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&quot;The Human Rights Campaign is America&#39;s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.&quot;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">I don&rsquo;t understand, HRC. If you&#39;re fighting for &quot;equality for all,&quot; what about equal health for trans people isn&rsquo;t achievable? Can you only get T on the moon, or is it lost at the bottom of the ocean like the heart necklace in <em>Titanic</em>? Is the idea of protecting trans people so alien that we can&rsquo;t hold employers to a standard of basic humanity?</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, HRC <a href="http://www.queerty.com/watch-lana-wachowski-talks-growing-up-transgender-in-hrc-speech-20121025/">honored</a> transgender filmmaker (and all around awesome person) Lana Wachowski with its (Token) Visibility Award. In her moving speech, Wachowski detailed her struggle to find a community that could accept her and move past seeing herself as &ldquo;broken&rdquo; or a &ldquo;freak,&rdquo; while acknowledging that sometimes our greatest struggles are for self-acceptance and to simply endure.</p><p dir="ltr">Was Wachowski&#39;s survival marginal, HRC? Is she a <em>bonus</em>?</p><p dir="ltr">HRC seems fine with transgender people if they are part of an appeal for dollars or a face on an ad campaign&nbsp;&ndash; as long as the group doesn&rsquo;t also have to actually fight for trans rights.</p><p dir="ltr">HRC also <a href="http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/2/9/harvard-goldman-glbt-award-shameful/">honor</a>ed Goldman Sachs with a Workplace Equality award in 2012. This is the organization whose &quot;<a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/02/14/an_offensive_advocate_for_lgbt_rights/">corporate malfeasance</a>&quot; and <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/02/14/an_offensive_advocate_for_lgbt_rights/">subprime lending</a> helped us get into the financial crisis, mind you, one that has particularly impacted those at the margins. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/04/homeless-lgbt-youth_n_2411884.html">Statistics show</a> that 40 percent of America&#39;s homeless population are queer.) This is the same organization that has, in the words of Samuel Bakkila of Harvard, <a href="http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/2/9/harvard-goldman-glbt-award-shameful/">consistently</a> &ldquo;supported <a href="http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=18683">conservative politicians</a> who <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/12/12/143590615/romney-stance-on-gay-rights-issues-its-complicated">oppose LGBT equality</a>.&quot; Goldman Sachs was also one of the largest donors to <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-02-02/goldman-sachs-joins-wall-street-to-fund-romney-over-obama.html">Mitt Romney&rsquo;s presidential campaign</a>. You might have forgotten him already. Let me remind you. Mr. Romney once <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelangelo-signorile/romney-some-gays-are-actu_b_2022314.html">informed us</a> that &quot;some gays are having children.&quot; According to Romney, &quot;it&#39;s not right on paper, [and] it&#39;s not right in fact.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Oh, and did I mention that <a href="http://www.queerty.com/hrc-appoints-goldman-sachs-honcho-as-new-marriage-equality-spokesman-20120206/">HRC hired</a> Goldman chief executive Lloyd Blankfein to be a spokesman for its <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/02/14/an_offensive_advocate_for_lgbt_rights/">marriage equality</a> campaign in 2012? <em>Salon</em> called the move to honor our toxic 1 percent &quot;<a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/02/14/an_offensive_advocate_for_lgbt_rights/">offensive</a>.&quot; I call it licking the hand that feeds you.</p><p dir="ltr">HRC also receives funding from other financial companies like <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000071">Citibank</a>, <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000103">JP Morgan Chase</a>, <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=d000000090">Bank of America</a> and <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000106">Morgan Stanley</a>. These political donations go to conservative and anti-gay causes at disproportionate rates. There&rsquo;s a reason HRC&rsquo;s nickname is &ldquo;<a href="http://thenewgay.net/2011/07/in-defense-of-gay-inc.html">Gay Inc.</a>,&rdquo; and it&rsquo;s not just the pretty penny it makes off those shirts. It&rsquo;s because of the group&#39;s status as a tool of big business, its consistent valuing of &quot;<a href="http://open.salon.com/blog/avimecca/2012/02/07/dont_support_human_rights_campaign">profits over people</a>.&quot; The symbol shouldn&#39;t be an equal sign. It should be a dollar sign.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite what HRC would have you believe, the reality is that this organization doesn&rsquo;t speak for our community, or even reflect it. The HRC&#39;s cadre is made up of disproportionately white, cisgender people of wealth, power and privilege, who end up fighting, not for social justice, but for personal self-interest. Donors think they are putting their dollars toward equality, but they are merely paying for <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2007/10/why-transgender-community-hates-hrc.html">homonormativity and assimilation</a>. There&rsquo;s nothing equal about deciding who gets rights and who gets left out.</p><p dir="ltr">As <a href="http://agnesgalore.tumblr.com/post/46709012222/why-i-almost-defriended-everyone-who-had-an-hrc-logo-as">marriage equality</a> continues to dominate the<a href="http://mamamantis.tumblr.com/post/46505304978/darnganronpa-posted-on-fb-so-basically-as"> media conversation</a>, I think back to the HRC logos I saw slapped on bumper stickers and windows as a queer youth. I grew up in a conservative city often hostile to anyone who wasn&rsquo;t drunkenly tipping over cows on a Saturday night. But seeing that little blue and yellow square made me feel like there were safe spaces for me. I knew I had people in the world looking out for me. I knew I would turn out OK.</p><p dir="ltr">As a white, cisgender-ish individual, I still have that privilege. I can look at that symbol and know that HRC portends to fight for my rights and protections. But that&rsquo;s meaningless unless we start working to extend our systemic privileges to all. HRC needs to grow up and stop hogging all the toys for itself. It needs to start sharing.</p><p dir="ltr">I&rsquo;m fine with organizations working to become more trans inclusive and fighting their histories of transphobia. I&rsquo;m incredibly proud of GLAAD for making the <a href="http://www.glaad.org/blog/glaad-affirms-commitment-trans-people-lgbt-community-and-allies-melissa-harris-perry-show">necessary moves</a> to include trans folks in the organization&rsquo;s name, realizing that an acronym that leaves the B and the L out contributes to the very marginalization it&#39;s hoping to fight. Its work isn&rsquo;t perfect, but it recognize that. A first step is still a step worth honoring.</p><p dir="ltr">However, I&rsquo;m tired of HRC saying it will change later. I&rsquo;m tired of HRC telling us, in more ways than one, that transgender rights aren&rsquo;t everyone&rsquo;s rights. I&rsquo;m tired of the group pushing trans people to the side. I&rsquo;m tired of HRC <a href="http://americablog.com/2010/10/hrc-caves-on-dadt-appeal.html">patronizing</a> the <a href="http://www.questioningtransphobia.com/?p=96">trans community</a>, <a href="http://planetransgender.blogspot.com/2011/12/hrc-starts-abc-work-it-petition-leaving.html">speaking for them</a> instead of working with them and claiming it is fighting for trans rights in <em><a href="http://www.questioningtransphobia.com/?p=20">its own way</a></em>. You&rsquo;re not Jesus H. Christ. I don&rsquo;t want you to work in mysterious ways. I want your ways to be visible and transparent. I want to know your ways even exist.</p><p dir="ltr">More than that, I&rsquo;m tired of being tired with the HRC and complaining about their commitment to shiny, $<a href="http://www.queerty.com/angry-protestors-pro-gay-corporations-democratic-politicians-and-hungry-journalists-descend-upon-hrcs-nyc-gala-20120205/">450-a-plate</a> galas and &ldquo;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/derrick-clifton/human-rights-campaign-same-sex-marriage_b_2973131.html">surface-level politics</a>.&rdquo; Our community needs to stop giving HRC free passes and instead needs to look into the face of the organization we enable. We need to stop being nice and start getting real.</p><p dir="ltr">Let&rsquo;s be clear: HRC is the problem. They are a giant, wailing infant of a problem and they need to be spanked and to change their poopy diaper politics. However, we are also part of the problem when we keep giving this group money. We need to stop rewarding an organization that we know doesn&rsquo;t speak for the diversity of our community, one that fights for the wealthy few at the expense of the many. We need to stop accepting later as an answer and expect change to start today. We need to start voting with our dollars.</p><p dir="ltr">We need to expect more than <a href="http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2013/04/01/hrc-and-coalition-apologize-silencing-undocumented-trans">sorry</a>. If not, we&rsquo;re just going to keep going back to the same <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2013/03/hrc-you-have-problem.html">broken relationship</a>, and we&rsquo;re never going to be happy. If the HRC can&rsquo;t learn to give back, we need to stop giving to it <a href="http://www.facebook.com/amigas.latinas.16">and</a> <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/">support</a> <a href="http://www.thenightministry.org/001_programs/040_youth_services/030_youth_housing/040_the_crib/">one</a> <a href="http://www.chicagoi2i.org/">of</a> <a href="http://www.aglochicago.org/">the</a> <a href="http://getequal.org/">many</a> <a href="http://www.howardbrown.org/hb_services.asp?id=50">other</a> <a href="http://www.lambdalegal.org/">organizations</a> <a href="http://www.almachicago.org/">doing</a> <a href="http://jointcra.org/">more</a> <a href="http://tjlp.org/">intersectional</a>, <a href="http://tjlp.org/">transformative</a> <a href="http://www.genderjust.org/">work</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">I think it&rsquo;s time the queer community breaks up with HRC, before it breaks us. If we want to fight for true equality, this is not the marriage we want.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Nico Lang covers LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can follow Nico on <a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com">Tumblr</a> or Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Nico_Lang</a> or find them on the <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 01 Apr 2013 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/unequal-sign-it%E2%80%99s-time-break-hrc-106422 We need to give up transphobia http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/we-need-give-transphobia-106351 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:16px;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2013-03-05-chain-fence-4_3_r536_c534.jpg" style="width: 386px; height: 290px;" title="Image of MMA fighting cage, where a trans fighter has stepped into the ring for the first time (Jae C. Hong/AP)" /></span></div><p style="font-family: arial;"><em style="font-family: georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;">Trigger warning: Transphobia. A lot of transphobia.</em></p><p style="font-size: small;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.3950813978444785" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">A month ago, my friend Todd Clayton came out as a recovering transphobe in an incisive <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/todd-clayton/queer-community-transphobic_b_2727064.html">essay</a> for the</span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> Huffington Post </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">entitled &ldquo;The Queer Community Has to Stop Being Transphobic.&rdquo; In the piece, Clayton details his own journey on transphobia and inclusion, how a Lana Wachowski speech opened his eyes to the quiet bigotry in his own life. He hadn&rsquo;t openly attacked trans people or worked against their freedoms. Clayton was transphobic in a lot of the ways our community members are: insensitive and dismissive, not realizing the ways in which trans lives and struggles intersect with our own.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b id="internal-source-marker_0.3950813978444785" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">When he asked me to read it, I told him it was a common experience of cisgender people in the community. As someone who came from a similar place as he did, it was my experience. I told Todd that if he ever published it, I would come out with my own story. This is that story. It&rsquo;s not easy to tell. I&rsquo;ve been holding onto it for awhile, keeping it secret and safe. But it can&rsquo;t stay secret any more.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">My name is Nico Lang, and I used to be transphobic.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I never thought about myself that way. I thought that my emotions were normal and valid, feeling justified in my passive disgust for trans bodies. The first time I heard about trans people was when my father talked about seeing </span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">The Crying Game</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> in the theater and the way the audience convulsed with shock when the heroine&rsquo;s &ldquo;secret&rdquo; was revealed. My father claimed that people walked out or threw up when confronted with the image of transness or a life that didn&rsquo;t fit their binaries.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I was a teenager. Binaries were all I knew. Like Patty Hearst, I grew to love my captivity. I identified with my oppressors, working to uphold that marginalization in my own life.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">When I met a trans person for the first time, I didn&rsquo;t think my emotions were hatred, but they had to show on my face. For the purposes of this essay, her name was Megan, and she was one of the oddest characters I&rsquo;ve ever met, the kind of person you&rsquo;ll never forget. Megan claimed to be a vampire and drink blood; she also told us stories of being a general&rsquo;s wife and getting married in Egypt, as if she were a real-life Orlando or Candide. She wanted to believe she led a life that was too big to comprehend. </span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I thought she was pathetic. Rather than looking at her identity as a natural defense mechanism for a conservative Cincinnati that would always see her as an outsider, I refused to understand her. I didn&rsquo;t try. My friend told me that Megan had been kicked out of her home and most schools she&rsquo;d attended. This should have helped me be more compassionate, but my heart couldn&rsquo;t open to let her in. I still think about her sometimes. I don&rsquo;t know if she even knows I have anything to be sorry for, but I want to apologize anyway.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Like all hate, I held onto it and secretly nurtured it in my refusal to believe there was anything wrong with the way I felt. On my first day of Human Sexuality in college, we watched a video on transitioning, one that included thorough graphics on gender assignment surgery. Just as the doctor discussed creating a vagina out of the shaft of a penis, I tapped out. I went for a drink of water. I milled around in the halls, checking fake text messages. I didn&rsquo;t even have a texting service at that time. I just couldn&rsquo;t go back in there. This wasn&rsquo;t what I&rsquo;d signed up for.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I wasn&rsquo;t sorry yet. I started to feel the void where sorry was supposed to be, the same one I felt when I saw</span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> Transamerica</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> and turned away during its brief flash of nudity. I couldn&rsquo;t look at her, just like a part of me couldn&rsquo;t comprehend the identity of a trans masculine classmate of mine. When a friend showed me what trans masculine bodies looked like (from a coffee table book he owned of Loren Cameron&#39;s work), I almost couldn&rsquo;t believe it. </span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">This is an actual quote: &ldquo;But they look so </span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">normal</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.&rdquo; It would be years before I learned to regret those words. I wish I could go back in time and punch that person in the face.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I wish there were a moment where I look at my behavior and realized that I needed to change, but life isn&rsquo;t like that. There isn&rsquo;t always a moment; there are a million moments, where you are made accountable to your lack of compassion and openness to the experiences of others, and that part of you will always still be there, nagging and pulling. Sometimes hate stays the same way it did before, and sometimes it lives on in racism, sexism and homophobia. Sometimes it just takes a nap.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">My hate was always secretly directed inward. From an early age, I <a href="http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/when-i-was-a-girl/">identified as female</a>, and it was years before my parents could get me to put on a pair of jeans. I wanted to wear dresses. I settled for sweatpants. Most kids were obsessed with Barney or Chuck E. Cheese; I wanted to be like Jane Fonda, in her spandex and matching headband, commanding a room of women to be their best selves while protesting the war in Vietnam, winning Oscars and being married to an eccentric billionaire. Many of us grew up secretly believing we could have it all. I knew I could. Jane told me so.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">My father has the same name as I do, and I didn&rsquo;t want his name, just like I didn&rsquo;t want his maleness. I went by the name &ldquo;Nicky.&rdquo; When my parents resisted, I started spelling it in increasingly elaborate and stripper-esque ways, like &ldquo;Nicki,&rdquo; &ldquo;Nickie,&rdquo; &ldquo;Nikki&rdquo; and &ldquo;NICKEE*.&rdquo; I dotted it with hearts, wrote it in pink and shellacked it with glitter. Some kids have to come out; I was barely ever in.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">For a long time, my parents let it slide. This was at the height of my brother Jonathan&rsquo;s illness, and my mother&rsquo;s days were too filled with breathing tubes, doctor&rsquo;s visits and press appearances to pay attention to anything else. My brother was born with a condition that they didn&rsquo;t have a name for. Basically, his insides swelled until they couldn&rsquo;t anymore. It was like his brain was trying to push its way out.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">They didn&rsquo;t name my gender variance either. They figured that if they didn&rsquo;t pay attention to it, the problem would go away, like a car alarm or a Jehovah&rsquo;s Witness. My father expected that I would grow to only love the things he did; he expected me to give up Barbies for G.I. Joes and teatime for football, the sport he so loved. He just wanted us to be playing on the same team. He didn&rsquo;t expect to see me in dresses.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">As a culture, when we see a man in a dress, we do one of two things: We laugh or we beat it out of him. We do that in different ways. My parents caught me playing Cinderella at daycare one day after work, and they didn&rsquo;t hit me or punish me. They didn&rsquo;t throw me on the street or pawn me off on a religiously conservative relative. They just showed me that wasn&rsquo;t an option. This isn&rsquo;t what boys do. I was never taught that it was okay to be a woman or that it was okay to be myself. Boys aren&rsquo;t princesses; they rescue them.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">They didn&rsquo;t realize that one day I would need to rescue myself.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Hating yourself is easy. I found a million outlets to hate myself. I had Jesus, who was nailed to a cross because I wasn&rsquo;t good enough. I had the locker room, which helped me learn to hate my body, on top of hating my soul. I had the guys who would wait outside my Pre-Calculus class to stare at me as I walked by, treating my queerness as a spectacle. I had the uncle who stopped talking to me when I came out, who would only direct questions or statements to me through my mother. He didn&rsquo;t hate me for being a socialist or wanting to tear down his capitalist patriarchy because of my political beliefs or any interesting reason. He hated me for the same boring reasons everyone else did. He hated me without even knowing why.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Boring or not, hate sticks. And low-simmering hate is particularly dangerous, because it&#39;s easy to ignore. Hate becomes a pattern, and you learn to hate for the same stupid reasons everyone else does. You hate without even knowing why, not recognizing that hate is a reflection of yourself. </span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">You don&rsquo;t choose to give up hate one day and wash your hands of it forever; the feelings stick with you, and they take lifetimes to cleanse. It&rsquo;s not enough to simply not hate people, and you don&rsquo;t get a pat on the back for looking at Lana Wachowski and saying, &ldquo;Oh, I accept you now. Here&rsquo;s an award. Go us!&rdquo; You have to actively work to include trans people in your lives and spaces, accept a callout when you get it wrong and educate yourself to be better. You have to be accountable to yourself.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">As Virginia Mamey Mollenkott argues, </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&quot;It is vital for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals to recognize our movement </span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">as basically a transgender movement</span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.&quot; Mollenott tells us that it&rsquo;s not just about homosexuality. It&rsquo;s about being queer -- or &nbsp;different from the norm. Our struggle is about gender. She writes, &quot;The fact that the most effeminate gay men and the butchest lesbians are the most endangered among us should alert us to the fact that society cares less about what we do in private than it cares about a challenge to its longstanding gender assumptions.&quot;</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">There was a time when I accepted not hating people as enough and credited myself as a good ally for &ldquo;having trans friends.&rdquo; </span><span style="font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Look how far I&rsquo;ve come! </span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">However, our engagement needs more than love; it needs action. Trans people are some of the most visible and at risk in our collective struggle, and we must actively work with trans people, rather than simply for them. Gay cisgender men need to stop wondering where the T is and realize that the T is all around us, organizing and working to make the community safer for all of us. The trans movement isn&rsquo;t the next movement. </span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Look around you. The movement is happening now, whether we care to recognize it or not. </span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">The movement is <a href="http://kokumomedia.com/kokumo-music-2/">KOKUMO</a>. The movement is <a href="http://tv.msnbc.com/2012/12/04/being-transgender-no-longer-a-mental-disorder-apa/">Kate Bornstein</a>. The movement is <a href="http://transgriot.blogspot.com/">Monica Roberts</a>. The movement is <a href="http://juliaserano.blogspot.com/">Julia Serano</a>. The movement is <a href="http://www.wehappytrans.com">We Happy Trans</a>. The movement is <a href="http://janetmock.com/2012/05/28/twitter-girlslikeus-campaign-for-trans-women/">Girls Like Us</a>. The movement is the <a href="http://www.transmonthofaction.org/">Trans Month of Action</a>. The movement is being broadcast all around you, and it&rsquo;s <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/491163934264456/">coming to Chicago</a> this weekend with <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Trans100?ref=ts&amp;fref=ts">The Trans 100</a>, celebrating the incredible diversity of the trans community. Trans people are here. Are we paying attention?</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I thought of Megan this week when GLAAD <a href="http://www.advocate.com/politics/2013/03/24/glaad-affirms-commitment-trans-and-bi-people-alters-name">announced</a> that it would be changing its acronym. The organization will no longer stand for the &ldquo;Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation&rdquo; but GLAAD, as in the emotion. </span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">This reflects that the </span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">organization</span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> not only speak</span></b><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">s for gays and lesbians, but also includes trans people in its mission. This was announced even though the G and the L will remain in the organization&#39;s name and their board is <a href="http://americanapparently.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/glaadt-gltaad-glaad-adds-trans-equality-to-its-mission/">mostly comprised</a> of white, cis males -- much like HRC, our friendly neighborhood transphobes.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I don&rsquo;t discredit them for that. I know personally that we all have to start somewhere, and that we can&rsquo;t move forward without taking that first step. However, in <a href="http://www.thenation.com/blog/172925/white-people-have-give-racism">giving up transphobia</a>, we must do more than just mention trans folks. Trans people are worthy of full inclusion, and they must lead, speak, sign, march, walk and wheel next to us (or in front of us). We must realize that their perspectives and issues are as worthy of championing as ours. We need to shut up and learn to listen. As GLAAD moves forward, I hope they continue to listen and push inclusion further. I hope we all do.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">A month ago <a href="https://twitter.com/janetmock">Janet Mock</a> very politely called me out on Twitter for getting something wrong in an article I wrote on transphobia in <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-01/observers-transphobic-bullying-what-war-trans-women-looks-104924">The Observer</a></em></span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">, and I learned from her. I haven&#39;t always been great with callouts, but this time, I was happy to get schooled by the best. My work isn&rsquo;t perfect. My work needs to be pushed and to push itself. I&rsquo;m still learning -- and that includes learning to love myself, finally. Personally, I&rsquo;m still <a href="http://inourwordsblog.com/2012/01/10/coming-out-yup-im-genderqueer/">figuring out</a> what gender <a href="http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/things-ive-learned-from-writing-under-a-gender-neutral-name/">means to me</a>. Like everything else in my life, it&rsquo;s a journey.</span></b></font></span></p><p style="font-family: arial;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><font face="georgia, serif"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If I saw Megan today, I wouldn&rsquo;t just apologize to her. I would thank her. After all, she succeeded in at least one way: I never forgot her.</span></b></font></span></p><p><em>Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly characterized the makeup of the GLAAD board. Ten percent of the GLAAD board identifies as transgender. It also mistakenly characterized GLAAD&#39;s mission statement. GLAAD&#39;s <a href="http://www.glaad.org/about" target="_blank">mission statement</a> includes trans people. </em></p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><em style="font-family: georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can follow Nico on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang">Twitter</a>, <a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com">Tumblr</a> or on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang">Facebook</a>.</span></b></em></span></p></p> Wed, 27 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/we-need-give-transphobia-106351 UIC hosts open forum on transgender health http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/uic-hosts-open-forum-transgender-health-106135 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/55445_jn_new_kling01_012213f%20%281%29_0.jpg" style="width: 512px; height: 280px;" title="(Julia Nagy/The State News) Rebecca Kling, from 2013 workshop at MSU" /></div></div><p>This month marked a historic first for the trans* community. March boasted the inaugural National Month of Action for Transgender Healthcare, a campaign co-sponsored by groups as diverse as Pride at Work, the Transgender Law Center, Basic Rights Oregon and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Our first &ldquo;Trans* Month of Action&rdquo; has seen events in San Francisco, Oregon and now Chicago, as trans* community organizer Rebecca Kling has worked with Erica Mott, Paul Escriva, Dion Walton and Hale Thompson to bring conversations on LGBT community health to the University of Illinois at Chicago.</p><p>Held at the UIC Division of Community Health Sciences, the Open Forum on &ldquo;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/events/262589797205013/">Health, Healthcare and the Trans* Community</a>&rdquo; focuses on two central questions: &ldquo;What issues do trans people face in navigating their health care? And how can the health of the trans community, as broadly defined, be improved?&rdquo;</p><p>A 2011 survey from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force outlined the problems facing the trans* community in regards to obtaining health care services. Their statistics stated that 19 percent of gender non-conforming and trans* people are denied access to health care outright, whereas another 28 percent &ldquo;postpone medical care because of fear of discrimination.&rdquo; According to <a href="http://inourwordsblog.com/2013/03/14/historic-labor-led-campaign-for-transgender-health-launches-in-march/">In Our Words</a>,</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Key findings also reveal that respondents experienced double the rate of unemployment as the general population; near universal harassment on the job; significant losses of jobs and careers; and higher rates of poverty. Not surprisingly, the economic inequality experienced by so many transgender people often leads to a lack of quality health care options.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>I grabbed a cup of coffee over the weekend with trans* forum organizer Rebecca Kling. Kling, a writer and performer, says these health issues were a major concern during her recent gallbladder surgery. In 2010, Kling was rushed to the ER for emergency surgery, and she was worried that the doctor wouldn&rsquo;t handle her case because of her gender identity. Kling stated, &ldquo;Going to the ER at 2 in the morning is scary enough without having to worry that my identity won&rsquo;t be respected. It&rsquo;s tiring to live in a world where you think everyone is out to get you.&rdquo;</p><p>However, Kling was lucky. When she was in the hospital, Rebcca Kling&#39;s mother stayed with her &ldquo;all day and night&rdquo; out of fear for her safety. Her mother remembered Rebecca telling her a story about a woman on the East Coast that medics refused to treat when they saw that she was trans*. She died on the side of the road. Her mother couldn&#39;t to let the same thing happen to her.</p><p>&ldquo;These issues don&rsquo;t just affect trans* people,&quot; Kling said. &quot;They affect the people who care about us.&rdquo;</p><p>Kling said &ldquo;the distrust [toward the medical community] fosters a hesitancy toward these structures that are supposed to be there to help us. Even when doctors are caring for trans* people in a positive way, individual compassion only goes so far. We need the right systems in place.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/58419_10100448741046165_139692507_n%20%281%29.jpg" style="float: right;" title="(In Our Words) Flier for forum" />Kling detailed her own struggles with her gender reassignment surgery (or &ldquo;Vagification,&rdquo; as she very cleverly puts it) and getting her medical insurance to cover the costs.</p><p>&ldquo;My insurance has a specific exclusion for gender reassignment surgery, and I&rsquo;m trying to fight that because it&rsquo;s discriminatory,&rdquo; Kling said.</p><p>Kling explained trasition doesn&rsquo;t come cheap. For trans* women, there are a litany of options, including hormones, hair removal, trach shaves and reassignment surgery, all of which cost money. Similarly for trans* men, there&rsquo;s breast removal, hysterectomy and hormones. According to Kling, &ldquo;even the most inclusive coverage often only covers hormones and assignment surgery. That leaves out a lot.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;This creates an economic barrier to transition,&rdquo; Kling said. &ldquo;My ability to transition is a result of having awesome parents, jobs that didn&rsquo;t fire me and being able to scrape together the money to do these things. Access to medical care is an economic class issue. Being trans is no different.&rdquo;</p><p>A major focal point of the Open Forum&rsquo;s discussion will be the Affordable Care Act, which, in its essence, bans medical discrimination against LGBT people.</p><p>Commenting on an anecdote from Mara Kiesling of the National Center for Transgender Equality, whose friend was denied treatment for anemia because of her &ldquo;transsexual blood,&rdquo; The Nation writes,&ldquo;The Affordable Care Act will end many of these absurd exclusions. In 2014, the Patient&rsquo;s Bill of Rights will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. What&rsquo;s more, the ACA will bring Title VII federal nondiscrimination protections to the health care field.&quot;</p><p>However, Kling said that the bill&rsquo;s implementation and purview is far from perfect. It doesn&rsquo;t include gender reassignment surgery.</p><p>&ldquo;The Affordable Care Act says that we shouldn&rsquo;t exclude LGBT people from insurance coverage, but the Department of Health and Human Services says that coverage doesn&rsquo;t include transitioning,&rdquo; Kling stated. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a contradiction.&rdquo;</p><p>As part of the national conversation on health care, the queer community is too seldom included in the discourse, and Kling hopes that dialogues like the Trans* Month of Action and the Open Forum will help change that.</p><p>&ldquo;We need to open this conversation up further, because no one person has the same health care needs as any other,&rdquo; Kling said.</p><p>Monday&rsquo;s forum will include panelists such as Jen Richards of We Happy Trans, Alexis Martinez of the Trans Oral History Project, Channyn Park of the Chicago House and Trans Life Project and Dr. Margo Bell of Stroger Hospital.</p><p>As a forum, Kling said they are trying to be mindful of the inherent power dynamics in the discussion and to create a space for discourse, rather than &ldquo;imparting wisdom onto the audience.&rdquo; Kling assured me, &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t want to tell you what the community needs.&rdquo;</p><p>For Kling, the most exciting part is the variety of perspectives being offered. Although she feels one panel could never be reflective of the breadth of the community, the forum has solicited questions from attendees to further include a diversity of experiences. Many respondents have come up with topics she wouldn&rsquo;t have thought of.</p><p>&ldquo;Someone asked, &lsquo;How can health care be supportive of non-traditional paths?&rsquo; Kling said. &quot;That didn&rsquo;t even occur to me. It&rsquo;s not my experience, but it&rsquo;s valid and important.&rdquo;</p><p>Kling says she&rsquo;s most excited to see the energy behind the forum.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a conversation that it seems like people are eager for and that they needed to happen,&quot; Kling said. &quot;I hope we live up to their expectations.&rdquo;</p><p><em>The Open Forum on Transgender Health, Healthcare and the Trans* Community will take place at UIC&rsquo;s Division of Community Health Sciences at 1603 W. Taylor Street on March 18 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The event will be held in the first floor auditorium and is free and open to the public. More information can be obtained on their Facebook <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/262589797205013/">page</a> or by emailing Rebecca Kling at rebecca@rebeccakling.com.</em></p></p> Mon, 18 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/uic-hosts-open-forum-transgender-health-106135 T.G.I.F. launches Indiegogo fundraising campaign http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/tgif-launches-indiegogo-fundraising-campaign-105901 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chicago-trans-pride.jpg" style="width: 387px; height: 290px;" title="(Source: Brynn Cassie West) Photo of KOKUMO singing with Chicago's Queer Choir" /></div></div><p>Last year, hundreds of attendees gathered together at Pilsen&#39;s Union Park for the first-ever T.G.I.F. rally, battling a surprise summer rain to be there. Standing for &ldquo;Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, Intersex Freedom,&rdquo; the event sought to bring together these three groups for their own pride event. The event often got the misnomer of &ldquo;Trans* Pride,&rdquo; but it was more than that. The day saw speakers, musicians and a performance of <em>What&rsquo;s the T?</em> from About Face&rsquo;s Youth Theatre, which looks at the intersections of race, class and gender in Boystown through the eyes of youth. The event was families and communities coming together to organize, to dialogue and to celebrate their togetherness. This was a day for everyone.</p><p>They say that lightning doesn&rsquo;t strike twice, but that won&rsquo;t stop T.G.I.F. organizer KOKUMO from trying. She wants the event to become a yearly &quot;incubator for leaders, artists, activists, as well as community members&quot; and an &quot;asylum&quot; for those who need it:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Because in lieu of CeCe McDonald, a young black transwoman in prison for self-defense, we are forced to combine power with pride,&quot; she said. &quot;We have to navigate this current movement of T.G.I. media visibility to political might. No more T.G.I. youth of color or otherwise should have to worry about their lives being stolen from them by bigots or the government.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>Last year, KOKUMO laid the groundwork for a yearly event. This year she wants to take the opportunity to move the conversation further. &ldquo;T.G.I.F. 2013,&rdquo; will play up themes of community and celebration. However, KOKUMO is looking to move beyond your typical pride celebration. For T.G.I. groups that are often marginalized in the larger queer umbrella, KOKUMO wants a moment of visibility and mobilization; to go from a place of awareness to movement. KOKUMO believes we need a T.G.I. Stonewall:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;The TGI community started the Gay Rights Movement but had it co-opted from us and renamed due to white and male privilege. We were the ones who started the Compton Riots and Stonewall Uprising. So I find it interesting that it took us 30 years to get to a place societally where honest and intentional conversations around T.G.I. experiences are finally being listened to. What&rsquo;s happening now is what should have happened when the fight to end AIDS began thirty years ago. The T.G.I. sex workers who were also dying in droves were completely ignored or disrespectfully counted as male-identified people. And that is why T.G.I.F. is happening. The time for patiently waiting for somebody to save our lives is over. TGI people are doing the work for themselves. That&rsquo;s the thing about courage, you don&rsquo;t know you have it until you&rsquo;re left with no choice but to use it.&quot;</p></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/TGIF-51.jpg" style="width: 412px; height: 290px;" title="(Source: KOKUMOMedia.com) Chicago performer Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero at T.G.I.F. 2012" /></div><p>KOKUMO wants this year&rsquo;s event to include DJs, performers from Cyon Flare to Angelica Ross and keynotes from co-organizer Alexis Martinez, Nick Kay and Pidgeon Pagonis. Also included will be services from SAGE Community Health, Test Positive Awareness Network (TPAN) and Transformative Justice Law Project, which will hold a clothing drive and a name change mobilization effort for attendees who need assistance in navigating the process to legally alter your birth name to your chosen name.</p><p>However, events don&rsquo;t pay for themselves. KOKUMO also has to secure a stage, equipment and pay for the park deposit&mdash;which lept to $3,075 this year. Movement building doesn&rsquo;t come cheap. You need to be able to afford the tools. That&rsquo;s why KOKUMO is asking for $10,000 to put together this year&rsquo;s event, which will cover most of the $13,340 budget. Although KOKUMO initially wasn&rsquo;t sure whether or not to ask for that much money, organizers decided that they needed to put it all out there in their ask. This weekend, the T.G.I.F. team put together a campaign video for the 2013 gathering (planned for Union Park on July 28), which organizers call &ldquo;Transcending Pride, Evolving Movements.&rdquo;</p><p>In a Saturday meeting (that WBEZ got an exclusive invite to), organizers argued that the event needed to &ldquo;go big or go home&rdquo; this year. As a friend, KOKUMO asked me for my opinion of the fundraising campaign&rsquo;s prospects. She was concerned she might not reach her goal. I responded with something that my mother used to tell me as a kid, whenever I felt like I couldn&rsquo;t do something: &ldquo;If you don&rsquo;t believe in yourself, no one else will.&rdquo; She needed to believe that the movement could rally behind her. I believe it will.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/kokumocover.jpg" style="width: 290px; height: 290px;" title="Photo from KOKUMO's recently released EP" /></div><p>T.G.I.F.&#39;s Indiegogo campaign will launch next Tuesday on the fundraising platform. To me, it&rsquo;s the ultimate demonstration of community. Although Chicago&rsquo;s mainstream pride events are attended by sweeping cross-sections of the community, with everyone from shirtless club kids to old ladies, babies and dogs attending, the event is bought and paid for largely by corporations. As much as the Pride parade is a yearly reminder of togetherness, it&rsquo;s a celebration of capitalism&mdash;of beer advertisements and discarded trash. The trash that lines the sidewalks of Halsted every year after Pride is a symbol of the negative externalities of fundraising. Hannah Arendt once coined the phrase &ldquo;the banality of evil.&rdquo; Call this instead the &ldquo;banality of business.&rdquo;</p><p>Instead of littering the community with outside cash, KOKUMO&rsquo;s mission is to have an event built for the community, by the community&mdash;by asking them to chip in. She wants to make celebrating T.G.I. togetherness sustainable by building a movement of friends, supporters and allies. In her fundraising video, KOKUMO explains that this event isn&rsquo;t just about cash. It&rsquo;s about building a space for people to go and giving them a platform where they can have their voices represented and recognized. It&rsquo;s about taking the next step. According to KOKUMO, &quot;when the most oppressed people began to save themselves, that&rsquo;s revolutionary.&quot;</p><p>At the end of the video, KOKUMO puts it with her trademark directness: &ldquo;The revolution will be T.G.I. The question is: Will you be ready?&rdquo;</p><p><em>To donate to the T.G.I.F. Block Party, look out for the video next week on <a href="http://www.indiegogo.com">Indiegogo</a> and follow the T.G.I.F. Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/events/506445999394998">page</a>. Their campaign launch <a href="http://www.facebook.com/events/473442812711500">event</a> will kick off next Wednesday at 6230 N. Kenmore, and T.G.I.F. will be raising funds through the spring. To contact KOKUMO, please visit www.kokumomedia.com or email her at kokumomedia@gmail.com.</em> <em>You can also purchase her EP on her <a href="http://kokumomedia.com/kokumo-music-2/">website</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 05 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/tgif-launches-indiegogo-fundraising-campaign-105901 Breaking ground: An interview with Precious Jewel on RuPaul's Drag Race http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/breaking-ground-interview-precious-jewel-rupauls-drag-race-105658 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/r-RUPAULS-DRAG-RACE-large570.jpg" style="height: 117px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="RuPaul (Logo)" />A few weeks ago, <em>RuPaul&#39;s Drag Race</em> made show history when its first contestant came out as transgender while appearing on <em>RPDR</em>: the fierce Monica Beverly Hillz. For a show that&#39;s often ignored, side-stepped&nbsp; or marginalized trans* issues, this was a major about face. When Willam left the show in Season 4, rumors spread it that was because Willam had started transitioning and &quot;broke the rules.&quot; Willam later explained that the reason for the dismissal was that the divisive contestant had been receiving conjugal visits from their boyfriend. Contestants aren&#39;t allowed to have contact with the outside world, and this violated that clause in the <em>Drag Race </em>contract.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">However, many felt the explanation was unsatisfactory. There was more going on here. That mistrust shows not only the lingering skepticism toward the show&#39;s trans inclusion but the divides between the trans* and drag communities. I mention it below, but Monica Roberts of Trans Griot recently took the show to task for its problematic relationship with transgender folks. Monica Beverly Hillz&#39;s coming out helps move that conversation in a more positive direction. It&#39;s an important first step.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As a fan of the show, I sat down with drag performer Precious Jewel, who identifies as transgender. I wanted to know what her thoughts on the show were, especially as someone who had tried out for the show in the past. In a blog post on <a href="http://wehappytrans.com/news-media/rupaulsdragrace/">We Happy Trans</a>, Precious discusses the ways she must straddle the divides of drag and trans* in everyday life. I wanted to pick her brain about what Monica Beverly Hillz means for the drag culture. She suggested that we grab brunch at Waffles, a recently opened brunch place off Broadway in Lakeview. <em>A new waffle joint? </em>I was already living for this discussion.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>Nico Lang: As a fan of <em>RuPaul&rsquo;s Drag Race</em>, how did you react to news of Monica Beverly Hillz&rsquo;s coming out? Do you think that featuring its first transgender contestant was a long time coming?</strong></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>Precious Jewel:</strong> In terms of Monica Beverly Hillz coming out, I felt not only was it a groundbreaking moment for Monica and her personal journey, but a growing moment for the show as well. No other contestant has ever openly identified as transgender while competing, though several have come out after their stints on the show, like Sonique Love, Carmen Carrera and Kenya Michaels. So yes, this was a long time coming.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The episode also shows us a loving and affirming RuPaul who dotes on Monica and proclaims, &quot;I brought you here because you are fierce,&quot; although she deftly sidesteps the actual word transgender. This shows that Ru has an understanding that at times the intersections of gender and performance meet at drag&rsquo;s doorstep in an undeniable package, but that she may not yet be ready to fully come to terms with the repercussions those commonalities could have on her show. It had to be the right time for a transgender contestant to come out on <em>Drag Race.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Ru is an extremely smart individual; not only is she glamorous but she is strategic. I think she first wanted to establish a relationship between the performance and the meaning of the term drag with her viewership in earlier seasons before she started branching out with other gender identities in later seasons. This season was framed around &quot;goddesses&quot; and &quot;fishy&quot; (or &ldquo;passable&rdquo;) queens; therefore, it wasn&#39;t a complete shock to me that one of them identified as female.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>NL: Why is this moment important? Why do we need trans* women as our drag superstars?</strong></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>PJ:</strong> Ru herself has been quoted as saying, &quot;I&#39;ve always been interested in looking under the hood of our culture and deconstructing femininity in itself.&quot; &nbsp;Monica&#39;s representation and presentation on the show deconstructs notions of what a stereotypical female looks like. That is the piece of <em>Drag Race</em> history that I am living for most.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Some of the most respected individuals in the business are transgender women as well as drag queens: Mimi Marks, Candis Cayne, Sasha Colby, and Carmen Carrera. All of those women have broken through glass ceilings. We need trans* women as drag superstars to show the world that we are no longer going to hide or question who we are or accept the slandering of our character for mainstream culture. We need trans* women as drag superstars to model that&nbsp;we as transgender women are more than just the victims of crude humor and murder. We are women who deserve to occupy positions of power and leadership, and we will be the ones to define our own expectations surrounding our individual gender identities.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>NL: A few weeks ago, an article by Monica Roberts of Trans Griot criticized the show for its problematic relationship to the trans* community. How do you feel about critiques of the show&rsquo;s trans* issues?</strong></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>PJ:</strong> Ru was the closest thing I could identify with on television growing up and all through adolescence. It&#39;s almost like how you love your family even though you disagree with some of the things they do.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">So no matter what, Ru will always be an icon to me. Ru has made it very clear that she is not interested in discussing the semantic meanings of words like &ldquo;tranny,&rdquo; or for that matter, whether she is referred to as he or she, but at the end of the day I do believe in her eternal message of love, energy and life. We as a community need to do less crucifying and more identifying with the gifts that the universe has placed within each of us.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>NL: In what ways do you think that RuPaul and the show can improve on its inclusion of transgender identities? And how do you feel that RuPaul herself can be more accountable to change?</strong></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>PJ:</strong> I would like to see an open transgender woman cast and win the entire competition with her fierceness. Although I think Detox is serving some high gloss gender variance this season and it&#39;s looking like shes going to strut out of the competition with that crown. I think RuPaul has done a great job showing gender variance, with Ongina, Carmen and Raja, it boils down to: &ldquo;How can Ru push the envelope more than she already has?&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Candis Cayne is slated to make another appearance on <em>Drag Race</em> later this season and I would love it if they announced her as &ldquo;renowned transgender actress Candis Cayne.&quot; Visibility is a huge step in terms of being an ally for a community.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>NL: As a trans* woman of color, how do you feel that your identity is embraced or marginalized in the drag community? What have your experiences been like?</strong></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>PJ:</strong> Drag was the catalyst in finding the inner goddess that was longing to be free inside of me for so long. Along the way on my journey for a time I identified as Queer before I came to the discovery that I actually identified as a transgender woman. It was during this time in my life that I met many drag performers who identified as women. Through numerous discussions with those women I came to the conclusion that I could and in fact needed to live my life authentically as a woman.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In regards to my transition, the drag community has been extremely supportive, and I often get a lot of love from people I used to &quot;twirl&quot; with back in the day. They thank me for the work I&#39;m doing for the community and often comment on how much happier I look now than I did when I was performing full time, wavering uncertainly and unhappily between boy and queen. Now that I am a woman, my light shines to its full effect.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>NL: How do you hope to challenge perceptions of drag through telling your own story?</strong></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>PJ:</strong> I&rsquo;m a firm believer that we are all in drag every day. Fashion is iconography. The clothing we wear, the music we listen to, and even the face we present to the world, each of these decisions constitutes our drag persona. Through our awareness, behavior and choices, we articulate our worldview and notions of self, power and belonging, and it is overarching aura that affects those we come into contact with in our daily lives. The way I try to instigate radical change in society is by pressing this point, by turning every sidewalk into a runway, every doorway into a parting curtain on a grand proscenium stage, by living larger than life and making my difference and my presence known.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Drag does not always have to be a huge wig, heavy makeup and a man in a dress; it does not have to be exaggeration to the point of comedic oblivion. Drag can be, and is for me, a self-actualization of confidence, perseverance and universal love.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>NL: You are someone who has tried out for <em>RuPaul&rsquo;s Drag Race</em> in the past, although you have yet to be invited onto the show. Did you feel the need to cloak or conceal your identity?</strong></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>PJ:</strong> When casting for last season came about I was just crossing the threshold of my transition into living full time as a woman. I had just that month even taken the step of re-taking my ID photo in female presentation. Needless to say, as I looked at the audition requirements stating that half of the audition tape must be delivered as your boy self, I definitely experienced some serious reservations.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As I did some soul-searching over the next few days though, I reached a couple conclusions. First, I truly believed that all of my hard work within the world of female impersonation deserved a place among the industry&rsquo;s finest, and second, part of me also believed in the potential for spreading my message that the platform of the show provided.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">So in the end, I tucked my weave up under a baseball cap and even went so far as to go back to the DMV to have my license re-issued in boy drag. I answered the requisite boy questions and played by all their rules, which wasn&rsquo;t particularly difficult really. I&rsquo;d been doing it most of my life. But it did feel hollow, and the experience caused me to vow that I would henceforth never compromise my authentic self for anything.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>NL: Now that <em>RuPaul&rsquo;s Drag Race</em> has taken a step toward trans* inclusion, where would you like to see that relationship go from here? What steps should they take?</strong></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>PJ:</strong> Trans* women are a part of the drag community. I think in very basic ways the audition process could open itself up to include more gender variant identifications in the written and video requirements. Transgender women have stories to tell and art to share, and the world needs to know it.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago. Want to talk about what happened on </em>Drag Race<em> this week? Follow <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang">Nico</a> on Twitter or <a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang">Facebook</a>.</em></div></p> Fri, 22 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/breaking-ground-interview-precious-jewel-rupauls-drag-race-105658 On The Observer's transphobic bullying: This is what the war on trans women looks like http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-01/observers-transphobic-bullying-what-war-trans-women-looks-104924 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/r-JULIE-BURCHILL-large570.jpg" title="Julie Burchill (YouTube)" /></div><p>One day, I want to wake up, turn on my computer, check out my Facebook feed and find out that today has been proclaimed International Cuddle Day, all wars have ended and the sad kittens in the ASPCA videos have all been adopted to be smothered with warmth and hugs. However, this Sunday was not that day.</p><p>Earlier that day at <em>The Observer</em>, Julie Burchill threw <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/14/1">transphobic gasoline</a> all over a transphobic fire with a <a href="http://www.birdofparadox.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Transsexuals-should-cut-it-out-_-Julie-Burchill-_-Comment-is-free-_-The-Observer.pdf">piece</a> defending an unnecessarily hateful remark by Suzanne Moore in <em>The New Statesman</em>. In an <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/01/seeing-red-power-female-anger">essay</a> on &quot;the power of female anger,&quot; Moore stated that women today are expected to look &ldquo;like Brazilian transsexuals.&rdquo; The rest of the piece was fine, and I&rsquo;m an optimist, so I&rsquo;d like to believe that Moore didn&rsquo;t realize she was being offensive. Maybe her anger just got misdirected. The burgeoning media apocalypse might have abated had Moore just apologized and recanted her statement&mdash;abiding the rules of feminism and supporting other women, whether cis or transgender. It&rsquo;s what Susan Faludi would want.</p><p>But that&rsquo;s not what happened. Instead, when faced with criticism (from her<em> freaking fans</em>) on Twitter, Moore took the proverbial low road. If it were a Monopoly property, it would be called Bret Easton Ellis Way. In order of chronology and reverse order of spiraling-downward proverbial-career-hole-digging offensiveness, here&rsquo;s how she responded to her critics. Let&rsquo;s count down the hits.</p><p>1. On using the problematic &ldquo;transsexual&rdquo; instead of trans or transgender: &ldquo;I use the word transexual. I use lots of &#39;offensive&#39; words. If you want to be offended it your prerogative.&rdquo;</p><p>2. When asked why her work doesn&rsquo;t recognize the intersectionality at hand: &ldquo;I dont even accept the word transphobia any more than Islamaphobia You are using &#39;intersectionality&#39; to shut down debate. Its bollocks.&rdquo;</p><p>3. When she&rsquo;s run out of things to say, FTW: &ldquo;People can just f**k off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them.&rdquo;</p><p>In her Kanye West-esque Twitter meltdown, Suzanne Moore (otherwise a respected writer and feminist) nosedives into a Reddit tailspin of argumentation, the type that Facebook status spats are made out of. The logic is that if you don&rsquo;t like what she has to say, you&rsquo;re the problem, and you just should un-friend her and let her live in her transphobic internet bubble. It&rsquo;s her fancy way of saying &ldquo;(Biological) Tits or GTFO.&rdquo; As a feminist, Moore should have instead taken this moment to reflect on her politics and question the inclusion in her imagined community. She should have used this internet call out as a moment for change in a feminist movement charged with transphobia all too often. This incident recalls not only Rosanne Barr&rsquo;s recent <a href="http://inourwordsblog.com/2012/11/05/the-last-stall-on-the-right-an-open-letter-to-roseanne-barr/">transphobic</a> <a href="http://jezebel.com/5955448/roseanne-barr-accused-of-transphobia-after-negative-tweet-about-green-party-candidate-jill-stein">statements</a> on Twitter but also <a href="http://thelstop.org/2011/07/are-all-%E2%80%9Cwomyn%E2%80%9D-welcome-michfest-and-the-struggle-for-trans-inclusion%E2%80%A8%E2%80%A8%E2%80%A8/">criticisms</a> lodged against the Michigan Womyn&rsquo;s Festival for who its definition of &ldquo;womyn&rdquo; included and who it left out. Flavia Dzodan once <a href="http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/10/10/my-feminism-will-be-intersectional-or-it-will-be-bullshit/">wrote</a> in <em>Tiger Beatdown </em>that &ldquo;feminism will be intersectional or it will be bull&mdash;&rdquo; and I agree. It&rsquo;s not a real party unless my trans friends are invited to it.</p><p>But readers, I hope you didn&rsquo;t forget about our friend Julie Burchill, because that&rsquo;s where this hate party gets interesting. Rather than looking at this moment clearly and seeing the power dynamics at play (renowned feminist with media clout/cis woman in the gender binary in-group vs. assorted trans women with Twitter accounts), Burchill took Moore&rsquo;s trolling to another level. Our dear Julie even made a whole article of it. <em>The Observer</em>, probably thinking that all press is good press, then published Burchill&rsquo;s poopy diaper of journalism. They didn&rsquo;t bury it online, out of view, next to a personals ad where no one could see it. No, they put it in the actual paper, awarding her demented crayon scribbles with a gold star of being archived in print forever. Fist bumps for everyone involved in that decision.</p><p>There&rsquo;s too much crap in it to fully reprint here, and the piece is so astonishingly putrid that it would be shocking even if it were a broadcast on the 700 Club, who we expect things like this from. To give you the <em>Reader&#39;s Digest</em> version of her bigotry, here&rsquo;s the top five terrible things from Burchill&rsquo;s career swan song, in no particular order. Pick your favorite!</p><p>1. &quot;With this in mind, I was incredulous to read that my friend was being monstered on <a href="http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/01/11/guardian-columnist-suzanne-moore-leaves-twitter-following-transphobic-row/" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, to the extent that she had quit it, for supposedly picking on a minority &ndash; transsexuals. Though I imagine it to be something akin to being savaged by a dead sheep, as Denis Healey had it of Geoffrey Howe, I nevertheless felt indignant that a woman of such style and substance should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chicks&#39; clothing.&quot;</p><p>2. &quot;To my mind &ndash; I have given cool-headed consideration to the matter &ndash; a gaggle of transsexuals telling Suzanne Moore how to write looks a lot like how I&#39;d imagine the Black and White Minstrels telling Usain Bolt how to run would look.&quot;</p><p>3. &quot;But they&#39;d rather argue over semantics. To be fair, after having one&#39;s nuts taken off (see what I did there?) by endless decades in academia, it&#39;s all most of them are fit to do.</p><p>4. &quot;She, the other JB and I are part of the minority of women of working-class origin to make it in what used to be called Fleet Street and I think this partly contributes to the stand-off with the trannies. (I know that&#39;s a wrong word, but having recently discovered that their lot describe born women as &#39;Cis&#39; &ndash; sounds like syph, cyst, cistern; all nasty stuff &ndash; they&#39;re lucky I&#39;m not calling them shemales. Or shims.) We know that everything we have we got for ourselves. We have no family money, no safety net. And we are damned if we are going to be accused of being privileged by a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs.&quot;</p><p>5. &quot;Shims, shemales, whatever you&#39;re calling yourselves these days &ndash; <em>don&#39;t </em>threaten or bully us lowly natural-born women, I warn you. We may not have as many lovely big swinging Phds as you, but we&#39;ve experienced a lifetime of PMT and sexual harassment and many of us are now staring HRT and the menopause straight in the face &ndash; and still not flinching.&quot;</p><p>When looking at Moore&rsquo;s and Burchill&rsquo;s war on trans women, some patterns emerge between the two dung-filled screeds. The problem with their rhetoric is not just that it&#39;s hate speech (and not even coherent hate speech at that). It&#39;s that they are fighting to uphold a culture in which transgender and cisgender women have to compete with each other. Apparently, womankind doesn&rsquo;t have enough female competition already&mdash;the type of middle school backstabbing that gets us nowhere. (Haven&#39;t they seen<em> Black Swan</em>?) In order to keep the privileges allotted by their biology&mdash;and forcibly exclude trans women from enjoying them&mdash;the two are willing to bully and namecall, engaging in the very tactics they accuse their critics of. With great media power comes great responsibility, and rather than using their privilege for good, they are using it to perpetuate the very systemic marginalization that Moore was decrying in her original article. By playing the Oppression Olympics and instead rendering trans struggles invisible, the oppressed become the oppressors, two respected writers reduced to shallow mean girls.</p><p>On top of being bad feminism, the trolling behavior seen above is bad humanism, as Moore and Burchill don&rsquo;t recognize that trans issues also affect them. It&rsquo;s not just that transgender issues are the problem of feminists&mdash;who, as we can see, have a lot of work to do in making the movement inclusive of<em> all </em>women. It&#39;s that trans issues are everyone&#39;s issues&mdash;because when some are oppressed, all are oppressed. If we focus only on cisgender people, we lose sight of the fact that trans rights are human rights. The transgender people Burchill so easily dismisses are people, too&mdash;our brothers, sisters, gender-neutral siblings, neutrois neighbors, friends, teachers, role models and allies, people who need our solidarity and support. Trans folks are fighting for inclusion in communities that historically shun them and struggling to carve out their own spaces in movements that prioritize the rights of those with hegemonic dominance over transgender equality&mdash;a movement that too often tells trans people that we can worry about you later, when the battles of the in group have all been won. First us, then you.</p><p>Although Moore and Burchill blame the oppressed for their own systemic oppression, this kind of victim blaming won&rsquo;t get us anywhere, and it&rsquo;s not just the job of trans people to fight for their liberation. As feminists, queer people and allies, we need to use our voices and privilege to bring trans people into our movements. As a queer writer, I need to give the marginalized a seat at my table and bring them into the spaces I take for granted as a white, cisgender-male-looking person. I need to speak up when I see oppression happening, or <a href="http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/on-azealia-banks-and-white-gay-cis-male-privilege/">as Perez Hilton experienced</a>, stay out of <a href="http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/on-azealia-banks-and-white-gay-cis-male-privilege/">spaces</a> I needn&rsquo;t occupy and check my privilege. I need to be mindful of when my politics are not inclusionary, listen to criticism, recognize I&rsquo;m still learning and intentionally work on being better. As an ally to others, I have to hold myself accountable&mdash;or no one can count on me to stand for anything.</p><p>And if Moore and Burchill want to be the feminists they think they are, they need to recognize that just as they are part of the problem, they can be the solution.&nbsp; Change has to start somewhere. So why not start with ourselves?</p><p><em>Note: To clarify, Burchill&rsquo;s article was originally printed in The Observer and republished in The Guardian. There&rsquo;s been some confusion on this point, so let the tireless internet fact checkers now rest. Your work here is done.</em></p><p><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago for WBEZ.org. Follow Nico on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang" target="_hplink">@Nico_Lang</a> or on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang" target="_hplink">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 15 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-01/observers-transphobic-bullying-what-war-trans-women-looks-104924