Fare thee well!

I sold my dollhouse today.

My dollhouse was a token in my life, a reminder of the soul I thought I sold to transition.

My dollhouse was my vision of life: perfect, orderly, and, well, choate.

I clung to that vision for 20+ years. I wanted to be a perfect little doll in a perfect little house with a perfect little husband who didn’t know I was trans, because that’s what I was told I had to be. I hated myself for my failure at this. I don’t anymore.

My dollhouse was everything that was wrong with the idea of What I Was Supposed To Be. It’s been lurking too long, and about a week ago I decided that it needed to go during a moment of enlightenment  I came back from visiting people who make up 1/3rd of my chosen family, my real family, last week. When I got home, I dug out the dollhouse, and put an ad for it online the night I got back.

And through the miracle of Craigslist, I turned one of the last reminders of the woman I was supposed to be, the woman other people wanted me to be…into $200.

I bought some beer, a couple of lottery tickets, some game time for my favorite MMO, and a new pair of jeans. I got a burrito and I put gas in my car. I got a fancy latte with “ganache” in it, whatever that is…it was $5!

The time had come to part with my dollhouse and to realize that my life is going forward and I finally have a chance to build me, the person I want to be, not the person I had to be.  I’m free, dear reader. I can be somebody now, at long last.

And you’ve been part of that. Your love, your page views, and your meaningful commentary have helped me greatly.

But the time has come to close the book on Erica the blogger. See, I’m not inchoate anymore, so this just doesn’t work.

So this is the end of my blog. I shall be elsewhere, I shall be around, and maybe I’m that girl eating a burrito across from you. I will likely not be ordering any lattes with “ganache” because $5 coffee is not my thing.

I thank you all for the journey, and I wish you could see me smile as I say this was a first step, but it’s been a hell of a first step.

The “strong and free” wishing on a star that I made in my first post is no longer a wish but a reality. See, today I stand before you strong and free, and it’s time to stand back and amplify others to get them there, too. You see, I didn’t sell my soul, I merely mortgaged it, and today I paid it off.

Goodbye, dear readers. I love you all.

As for what next, to quote a Rush song that came out on an album released the day I got that dollhouse…

I’ll go with the wind, I’ll stand in the light

(If you want to say hi, or need a post’s text for something, here’s a contact form.)

i’m a “one-issue voter”

i admit it: i vote, more than anything else, for reproductive rights and the Roe v. Wade Constitutional “right of privacy.”  i am shamelessly and proudly “pro-choice” in that i believe that people should make decisions about their own bodies and what they do with their own bodies. i believe people have an absolute right to that freedom without exceptions or quibbles…as a woman who grew up in a state where the right to privacy was enforced by Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike, i can tell you something: reproductive rights and the right of privacy in reproductive decisions changes lives.  i learned about how to not get pregnant and how to avoid STIs in high school; i know that when my friend got knocked up that her access to a legal, affordable abortion when she was 17 made all the difference in her life.  i know that access to sexual health information and freedom of reproductive choice is so critical and important that, yes, it’s my “one issue.”

i’ve held my friends’ hands through enough pregnancy terminations that i am sure that some people believe i’m going to hell. friends, haters, lovers…i can tell you that none of those friends came to that decision lightly. i can tell you that even with “abortion on demand” there is a level of hemming and hawing that makes me grateful i’m sterile. i can tell you that even the best care for people seeking abortions still fails them; it still fails to remember that part of the freedom of choice is, well, choice. it fails to mind that accessible, affordable, safe abortion isn’t really that common. in 87% of US counties (and 97% of non-metropolitan counties) there is no “identifiable” abortion provider. the 3% of “non-metropolitan counties” are almost exclusively in New England and on the West Coast.

“but Erica,” you say, “you’re trans so why do you give a shit?” well, the war against abortion is primarily a war on women; most people, though obviously not all, who have uteruses are women. and, well, i want y’all to know something: if they take away abortion rights/access, the next thing is going to be whatever else hinges on the Constitutional “right of privacy”, you know, stuff like birth control, the right to impound birth records in states that have extended that right, the right to consensual sexual activity in your own home, the right to medical privacy generally…in other words, all things that matter to trans people. once upon a time, “sodomy” was a felony. most states considered everything from anal sex to fisting a form of “sodomy”, and until Lawrence v. Texas, a queer rights case that leaned directly on Roe v. Wade, almost everything i do in bed was a felony. hell, dilating was probably a felony…seriously, though, our freedom to consensually fuck as queers descends directly from the “privacy rights” enumerated in Eisenstadt v. Baird, Griswold v. Connecticut, and Roe v. Wade.  that alone should matter on top of the reality that women’s liberation is impossible without safe, shameless, affordable, and legal access to all reproductive rights services, including abortion. in the United States, persons have been given the right of privacy via the Constitution to manage the affairs of their own person, so it means leaps forward under the law for women, people with disabilities, queers, and so many more protected classes whose lives benefit from a penumbra of privacy being extended to their medical and social affairs under law, from issues of parenting to issues of self-sufficiency.

so that’s why i care about privacy rights. that’s why i am derided as a “one-issue voter”…because abortion matters to me more than anything else, not just because i believe all persons have a right to safe, affordable, shameless, and legal abortion should they demand but also because so many other rights are conferred by that Constitutional right of privacy that Roe v. Wade and its hangers-on created and that that right of privacy extends so far it covers almost every gender and sexual minority.

call me a “one-issue voter.” it’s simplistic, but at the end of the day it’s true, because that one issue is the dignity of every person with a uterus and every gender/sexual minority. that one issue matters too much to let a bunch of politicians decide, and i am gratified to report to you that one of the sneakiest, most funded attacks on the basic Constitutional right to privacy, Florida Amendment 6, failed by what we call a “country mile” here where i come from. amidst the glory and joy of President Obama’s victory and the hilarity of four more years of VP Joe “i’m a shaaaaark” Biden and the victory of multiple measures and amendments, Amendment 6′s stellar failure was the highlight of my night. maybe it’s my “one issue” but it’s an issue that covers so much ground that any attack must be rapidly thwarted. the populace of Florida choosing to “nix Six” despite uterus policing types pouring millions into the measure indicates something beautiful beyond that Florida’s Medicaid/Medicare system keeps paying for reproductive health: the fact that even in the conservative South, the beauty of the implied right to privacy is obvious to almost 58% of the state and that my “one-issue voter” heart was really happy early in the evening.

my “one issue” isn’t just abortion…it’s basic respect and recognition of the humanity of people with uteruses and what that means for all women and GSMs. my “one issue” is dignity, freedom, reproductive fairness, and having the back of everyone to be smart enough to make their own choice.  i thank you, Floridians, for believing in my “one issue” and i shall be proud to be a “one issue” voter until the dignity and basic respect of women and gender/sexual minorities is never put to a vote or reviewed by a court ever again, and i hope someday that shall be a reality so i won’t be a “one issue” voter anymore.

nihil de nobis, sine nobis: trans women of color and Remembering Your Dead

nihil de nobis, sine nobis: Latin for “Nothing about us, without us.”

as i’ve remarked before, i come from the disability rights movement, where we talk frequently about trying to navigate the map of inclusion at the table in matters affecting our basic rights and dignity, since we often find ourselves excluded from that proverbial table.  as trans women of color, we similarly are occupying a place of exclusion in something that deeply affects us: Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day which was unquestionably started with the best of intent but ends up with the worst of results, namely that it’s about us (trans women of color, the majority of the names being read), without us, because we are shut out from involvement in the “trans community” in life at every turn, but y’all have no problem claiming us once we’re dead.

it’s disappointing to see that there is little to no mention of race on the official TDOR site other than in raw statistics. trans women of color have met with everything from passive-aggressiveness to outright ignorance when attempting to deal with the folks who run TDOR. long ago and far away, Gwen Smith was unwilling to talk about the realities of race when it comes to violence against trans women back when TDoR was her one-woman show; the current volunteers are no different. (the extent of Ms. Smith’s involvement at present is unknown, but she is credited repeatedly as the “owner” of TDoR; see http://www.transgenderdor.org/about-2 for an example) so this leaves no question as to why TDoR is so, well, uh, *white*; there is an unchecked/unquestioned monoculture at work. i’m sure the intent of the volunteers who run TDoR is not to create such a monoculture, but this is how it ends up, and the expectation seems to be that TDoR is by its very nature exempt from accountability for being such a monoculture, especially when most of the stories they’re telling, and too often mistelling, are about dead trans women of color.

i do understand that TDoR events are organized locally and can vary from place to place, and that this is the responsibility of the local volunteers. however, given that many trans women of color seem to express the same experience regardless of where they are, chances are that the local example of TDoR is probably pretty common, namely that an overwhelmingly white cadre of men is reading the names, with a token trans woman or two thrown in; make sure they’re always older and white, because when practicing that type of tokenism it’s critical to present trans women as all the same since that is what many transmisogynists, especially those within the queer community, use to justify their transmisogyny. when troublesome patterns seem to be repeated in many places, it points to two possible kinds of systemic failure: passive failure, where the result is unintentional, or open disregard, where the failure is intentional. i posit that this is passive failure in most cases rather than open disregard, but either way the end result is the same.

the organization of TDoR in every case i’ve ever seen or heard reported is done by a closed ecosystem; to be able to participate, you have to already be a known quantity; locally, for women, you must be previously known to the transfundamentalist support group, and for men to the local trans guy group, which is far less malignant in terms of who it lets in, but it is open only to trans guys, so that does no good for the rest of us, and it would be wrong to invade that space. i don’t know if the tokenized inclusion of trans women is intentional, because visibility is very dangerous for trans women, or because the transfundamentalists being given the ability to decide who can participate ends up self-selecting, but the end result remains that the people up there butchering the pronunciation of the names of a bunch of dead trans people, a group which is overwhelmingly trans women of color. how is this providing a fitting memorial to these people?

the intersection of whiteness and trans identity is invariably part of the problem here. i’ve talked about the mechanics of exclusion/derision of trans women of color before; the “trans community” basically requires Caucasianness, tokenism, or importance to enter, and given that some of us arrived too late to be tokens, aren’t famous (…and don’t want to be), and aren’t white, you’ve got a recipe for how you can keep the monoculture going. you can keep all sorts of trans/genderqueer people of color out all the time, so why should TDoR be any different?

the reality is that though trans identity is not limited to white people, the hurdles that we as people of color are expected to be able to clear to be “trans enough” are higher hurdles. people who play the “trans enough” game almost always come from a position of financial privilege; much as it might seem to be pretty obvious, this is rarely acknowledged when it comes to the “trans community” and its enforcers. like many trans people of color, i transitioned outside any of these structures and don’t really understand things like being expected to talk forthrightly about what surgeries i’ve had when asked by a complete stranger inside trans space; this isn’t the kind of thing anyone asks me when i’m walking down the street or sitting on a train, but the changed spatial context means that i’m supposed to tell you about the butt lift i’ve never had? yeah, i don’t think so. most of us who are trans people of color, especially trans women of color, cannot clear the hurdles of “trans enough” and are thus disregarded by and excluded from the “trans community.” the fiction that there is some magic parallel universe for trans people of color, by the by, is just that: fiction. we might organize informally in small groups, but we don’t have secret meetings of the Black trans woman junta in the basement of the AME Church down the way.

because trans identity is so caught up in Caucasianness, a new problem emerges with both the claiming of dead trans people of color altogether: if we weren’t “trans enough” in life, why are we suddenly being counted by the same people who wouldn’t have us once we’re dead? it’s because the idea that it’s dangerous to be trans has to be sold somehow, given that cis people generally ignore violence against trans people regardless of what color we are, and i do have no doubt that it seems like a good idea to use all these names. the trouble is that when this happens without any discussion of race, class, and how violence is often linked to certain types of work, reading our names uncritically is appropriative and using the deaths of people you didn’t care about in life as a vehicle for activism in death. i get that this has to be sold as a concept because cis people are often willfully ignorant that we’re getting killed out here. thing is, there are ways to sell this concept and be conscious of the racial/class/social politics involved herein. i see what the point of TDoR is in terms of public relations, but it isn’t so invaluable that the problematic things about it should go unchecked.

i had initially set out to say we should boycott TDoR as trans women of color and our allies. but let’s be honest, we already aren’t there to start with, so a boycott is meaningless; we’re going to be tokens in TDoR at best no matter what until the trans community stops enforcing a standard based on Caucasianness on everyone. however, the reality is that TDoR needs to include more discussion of race, gender, and violence because what it’s talking about is people who are dead because of the confluence of race, gender, and violence. i suspect that the same reason the trans community is so viciously exclusive of trans women of color is the same reason this doesn’t come up: it requires discussing uncomfortable realities, especially given that the trans community is shamefully complicit in considering trans women of color disposable…until one day in November, when y’all care about us if we’re dead.

TDoR is hopelessly broken in how it fails trans people of color as it stands, but if you’re involved with TDoR, it’s time to seed some change. even in a monoculture, there are ways one can promote respect and accountability. mention how many of the people whose names you’re reading are dead trans women of color. try to get our names and pronouns right, something i can’t believe is actually a problem inside the trans community, but apparently it is…part of that is knowing how to pronounce a name before you read it. if you’re organizing an event, actually bother pointing out how overwhelmingly Latina and/or Black and female the names of the dead you’re reading are…and think about how to include on a more broad-based basis rather than letting it be run by closed social groups. be accountable for how racist the trans community is, and think about that doubly so when trying to include tokens rather than actually opening it up to all of us. don’t exclude people for who they are so long as they identify as trans (if you’re doing an all-trans reading; don’t exclude people at all if not.) don’t get huffy and angry when someone points out the reality of how TDoR works; rather than getting passive-aggressive or trying the “who the hell are you” angle, two things that are you telling that person their concerns don’t matter, listen and figure out what you can do to work with them, if there is anything that can be done. remember that what might seem like anger is often a direct response to the fact that we’re shut out wherever we go in the trans community, it’s not anger at you. add in that the people who organize TDoR nationally, volunteer or not, don’t want to talk about race at all, and we have a pretty good recipe for what’s happening.

we’re not looking for pity or to be placated with words that don’t mean anything; we seek sincerity and maybe someday inclusion. right now, though, November 20th is coming up, and i implore you to work for us even if you’re working without us and to think about how to break down the whiteness of the trans community…or don’t, and keep making it an othering experience for people you’re not even including and then wondering why we don’t feel welcome. nothing about us, without us indeed.

the anti-reproductive rights movement is rape culture

trigger warning for content related to rape and someone else’s use of an ableist slur so please proceed accordingly.

so the local Planned Parenthood is under siege from the “40 Days of Life” knaves, a coordinated strike against the reproductive rights of people with uteri*.  they’re pretty good at shouting at any female-presenting person who won’t listen to them, and one of them called me a “baby-killing slut” the other morning when i was trying to walk from the bus stop to the post office, a walk that takes me past the Planned Parenthood and thus the 40 Days bunch in front of it. the 40 Days people tend to bus in outsiders for their protests locally, which means that they’re bringing in some of the most rabidly hateful types from places afar since they can’t get enough protesters around here. please note that the 40 Days group claims these are “vigils” but i’m not sure what kind of “vigil” involves screaming at people. also, we won’t bother with the irony of screaming at me, since i don’t have a uterus, i haven’t killed any babies and i’m not sure how any man knew that i was a slut since that’d be a man telling a tale about a land he’s never been to.

there’s just no logical response to that sort of thing, though.  replying with an obscene gesture only gives them more fuel and sometimes causes them to pursue you. i was attempting to go mail a package of pancake mix and coffee to my aunt, so i wasn’t even going into Planned Parenthood. regrettably, the local PP chapter is deeply transmisogynist and has been problematic in dealing with trans  men, but at the same time i support the ends of Planned Parenthood even if they don’t have my back because some things are critical, and access to safe, legal, shame-free, and affordable abortion is absolutely critical. in many places in the United States, Planned Parenthood is all there is when it comes to abortion access, though much of the critical work of funding abortion comes from the National Network of Abortion Funds because surprisingly little insurance, public or private, includes coverage for abortion.

it’s time to stop treating people who police the bodies of others as a “complex moral issue” and start calling the anti-reproductive rights movement what it is: rape culture. when we permit the debate to be framed in smarmy falsehoods like “pro-life”, we’re permitting rape culture to frame the debate. it’s time to start fighting back, and it’s time to quit equivocating when dealing with the “abortion is murder” types…they’re not doing anything “for the children”, they’re acting as shameless and knowing agents of rape culture. there is nothing “pro-life” about forced birth. there’s nothing “pro-life” about how much American society fails children who aren’t born into privilege. there’s nothing “pro-life” about how American society treats single mothers, and there’s nothing “pro-life” whatsoever about what happens when abortion becomes restricted or illegal, as that quite literally kills. banning, or significantly restricting, abortion is violence against people with uteri. 

think about it: people who engage in ridicule of everyone who they assume to be a woman who won’t pay attention to them. they tell people with uteri what they can do with their bodies. they attempt to impose legal regulations on those bodies. they use deception in order to psychologically abuse the minds in those bodies. they complain that they’re being unfairly characterized for their actions despite the dire consequences of their actions. their actions and statements clearly indicate that they believe that a person “deserves” the situation they’re in. they say things like “legitimate rape” and “common-sense abortion restrictions” and don’t fool yourself, those phrases have the same intent: judgment, dominion, and control over bodies…what the 40 Days for Life people are doing is the same thing rapists do.

it’s a pretty simple concept: what someone else does with their body, to their body, is none of your business. when you have consent to do something, you may. when you do not have consent, you do not. trying to soften the corners of this logic with the varied “excuses” rapists use or with the idea that there is properly some social interest in the uterus of someone who isn’t you is merely making an excuse. the “don’t you know better” line, by the way, is the worst thing ever. given how shamefully bad sex ed is in the United States, it’s significantly possible that many people don’t know how to prevent pregnancy. i know what i was taught in middle school in a fairly liberal state’s public school system and what shamefully poor answers were given to the other girls who asked questions, who came from homes where they couldn’t ask about contraception…but this is a moot point anyways, because the myth that women use abortion as contraception has been roundly shattered and “don’t you know better” is just shaming and blaming, two more critical elements of, you guessed it, rape culture.

grounding the rationale for expressing the interest in control of someone else’s body is indeed a central part of rape culture. making excuses for doing so is what is frequently offered as a “defense” against rape…making up irrational reasons to designate some abortions “permissible” and not others is just as bad. it’s like saying that grey rabbits are alright, but white rabbits must be eliminated, and as a rape survivor i know damn well that sometimes society buys the irrational “reasons” of your attacker and i know that sometimes they don’t. why was i “asking for it” because i wore a short skirt? why should you have to prove that a pregnancy stems from “rape or incest” to have an abortion? why was i told by a cop that ‘retarded girls don’t say no’? why is involuntary abortion defended under law when in Utah, you have to wait 72 hours longer to get an abortion than to purchase a handgun? why are we still treating this as a “debate” when it’s about basic human dignity and the ability to make a choice about what you do with your body? the fact that you have a uterus doesn’t make you less worthy of dignity than anyone else or less able to decide what you do with it.

something i said early on about being trans applies here: my body, my life, my rules. i don’t have a uterus, and thus never have to make the choice whether or not to have an abortion. if you do, nobody other than you gets to tell you what to do with it.

two more things and an explanation of the pesky asterisk above:

one: i get a lot of inbound search traffic, so: if you’re pregnant, or you think you’re pregnant and you want an abortion or need unbiased information about abortion and you’re in the US or Canada, call the National Abortion Federation on 1-800-772-9100 or find them online at prochoice.org. in the UK, contact bpas on 08457 30 40 30 or at bpas.org. please note that bpas provides abortion to people seeking it from any country, including Ireland. if you have information for safe access in other countries, send it along to inchoaterica at gmail (dot) com and i’ll post it.

two: if you’re concerned for what you can do about dealing with the 40 Days for Life posse ignoramus, which generally only targets Planned Parenthood and not other abortion providers (and often targets PP locations that don’t perform abortions) contact your local Planned Parenthood chapter to find out about volunteering as a clinic escort. i’m a clinic escort here and as a woman who gets medical care from Planned Parenthood (admittedly 900 miles away) i know how terrifying it can be to deal with 3 protesters when you’re going to the doctor. i don’t personally know what it’s like to have 20 of them in your face when you need an abortion, but i’ve witnessed it from the clinic escort perspective and you know what? it’s the only time i’ve ever been spat on by someone who wasn’t raping me. i’m sure this is a coincidence. seriously, regardless of the politics of your local PP, please consider being a volunteer escort, as the need is never larger than it is during 40 Days, which just started.

* – not everyone with a uterus is a woman, though generally people who have uteruses are women…but this isn’t always the case. this matters because trans men often end up shamed even worse than cis women often are in situations where reproductive health access is necessary, not just around abortion. thus, “people with uteruses” when that’s who it affects, because that is who it affects…this doesn’t take away from the fact that this is generally a war on women’s bodies and a condition of political, social, and societal misogyny, but it is possible to recognize this and not degender trans guys at the same time.  don’t doubt for a second that a war on reproductive rights is a war on everyone with a uterus, and the fact that it’s a “war on women” is because those of us who are women are presumed to have uteri. and yes, the plural of “uterus” is “uteri”.

doing the patriarchy’s work and calling it feminism: the TERF

there’s been a whole bunch of publicity and hate flung around about the Federal court decision last week that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must pay for genital reconstruction surgery for Michelle Kosilek. if you haven’t read the actual ruling, i strongly suggest you do before commenting on the appropriateness of GRS for Ms. Kosilek (the ruling, in PDF format). see, Ms. Kosilek was sentenced to life without parole, as she was duly found guilty of first-degree murder back in 1993 and that’s the sentence murder one carries in Massachusetts; as a result, she ends up in the position of being a person whose medical care is the responsibility of the Commonwealth, and Massachusetts must thus provide proper medical care for her.

you have four choices here, folks:

1) don’t provide for medical care for prisoners. this is barbaric and cruel and leaves skid marks on both the Commonwealth and US Constitutions, so it’s not an option.
2) don’t provide care for transwhatever prisoners. this isolates us as a class and codifies discrimination. no thanks!
3) abolish prisons altogether, which saves taxpayers a mess of money. whether or not you’re comfortable with this depends on if you think the penal system works.
4) go along with the reality that this is medical care that Ms. Kosilek needs, which it kind of is, and, well, we as society locked her up, we as society must accept the consequences. that’s how the Eighth Amendment works, dawg.

don’t get me wrong: Michelle Kosilek is a loathsome, awful person. i don’t like her one bit, the evidence was overwhelming, and oh yeah, she killed her wife apparently mostly because she wanted a divorce. most of the articles about the murder, the trial itself, etc. are lost to the sands of time and the boston.com paywall, but i remember the case vividly because every damn day the Hartford Courant covered the case in lurid detail and i realized what people thought and portrayed transsexuals as. my little Ericaish heart really hurt to read it.  anyways, some trans women are going to be awful people: i’m sure most of you know Anne Lawrence is on the record as having committed sexual assault and all…listen, trans women, like all people, will come in good and bad. some of us will be murderers, some of us will be singers, some of us will be software engineers, and some of us will be bus drivers. that’s how it works: our common thread is that we’re women and that we are identified as trans for one of a number of reasons. i mean, after all, there are cis women who do all these things, too.

the TERF, the trans-exclusionary radical feminist, seizes upon any example of “bad” trans woman they can find, and while i won’t do them the pleasure of being recognized here, the commentary has been flying so hot and heavy that it feels like there’s a rain of flaming oxen falling from the TERFworld about Ms. Kosilek. they have a “bad” trans woman to seize upon and they’re seizing like a Honda Civic on the freeway with no oil in the engine. the TERF talks about things like “peak trans”, a collection of discussion about awful trans women they’ve dealt with. and listen, i’m really sorry you had to deal with being treated like shit by someone, regardless of their gender identity. but this isn’t really what “peak trans” is about, and humiliating trans women based on the behavior of one trans woman is obviously a form of confirmation bias…the TERF attempts to look neutral and “pushed too far” nevertheless. the thing about the TERF is that the TERF is actually a cog in the machine of the patriarchy and the TERF knows damn well this is true.  because of this, i think it’s time to talk about the reality of the TERF: the TERF is actually a plant within feminism who acts in a manner that upholds the kyriarchy, and as a result the patriarchy, at all costs.  the TERF is the plant Janice Raymond warned you about, she just got the mechanics all wrong. women are ripping apart feminism from within, but they’re not trans women. women are quietly working to discredit and destroy feminism, but they’re claiming the high ground to feminism generally.

you heard me right: Cathy Brennan, et al…they’re patriarchal shills. they granulate and divide women and tell us our feminisms aren’t sufficient. they don’t bother with attacking the scourge of anti-feminism and they don’t really bother with important things to feminism like, you know, equal pay for equal work. go ahead and Google the following search: “Cathy Brennan”  “Lilly Ledbetter” (together, both in quotes) and you’ll get nothing from Ms. Brennan on the matter, a fact i find interesting. or how about a law codifying funding for programs to stop violence against women? again, Google “Cathy Brennan” VAWA and you’ll see what i’m talking about…nothin’ doin there, especially given how contentious VAWA’s reauthorization was in 2012 and the ongoing concerted attacks from the far-right against VAWA which have continued apace since US v. Morrison. despite Ms. Brennan’s squallings to the contrary, i’m a woman and things like equal pay matter to me; i have my criticisms of VAWA but that’s probably something for another time. 

so apparently Ms. Brennan is absent when it comes to caring about Federal law designed to protect women. and guess what? if you believed the law doesn’t do anything to protect people and abstained from caring about the doings of law because of this, you might have a pretty good case for your absence from such matters. trouble is, Ms. Brennan doesn’t have such a belief toward the law at all, instead choosing to venerate it uncritically in working for Hudson Cook,  a law firm with really savory clients like payday lenders (that’s what “CashNET CSO of Maryland” is) …or Ocwen Financial, a notorious foreclosure fraud perpetrator. so don’t you think that someone like Ms. Brennan would probably choose to direct her passion toward something besides upholding one of the most patriarchal elements of the American landscape, financial institutions run by old white guys in suits? apparently not, and that’s a huge part of the discord: a TERF like Brennan probably would have at least some statement of criticism of the system they work in to identify their political discord.  Ms. Brennan has made no such statement, and frankly once you’ve made partner i suspect that you’re not exactly working inside the system to destroy it.

i find these two things most queer, but the queerest thing of all is that many TERFs (Ms. Brennan included, and that’s the last of her i’m mentioning) identify as something called a political lesbian. this faction reduces being a dyke to a lifestyle choice…i’m not even kidding here…and that to do so means standing against patriarchy. okay, on the last part, any relationship between women inherently disempowers the patriarchy (and i swear i never used that as a pickup line in college other than, like, ten times) and that’s a good thing to disempower the patriarchy, but i think a woman being true to her sexuality and not claiming it’s a politically-based choice destroys the patriarchy, too. you know, female empowerment and all that stuff we get mocked for talking about over here on Team Feminist. the very essence of political lesbianism is that your sexual orientation doesn’t matter to them because if you’re straight, you’re a product of compulsory heterosexuality, and if you’re not, well…it’s a choice? it’s the same logic used by people who operate “reparative therapy” facilities that prey on queer youth, and as someone who made it through reparative therapy (yep, STILL GAY) i can tell you it sucked and it is not something i’d wish on my worst enemy. the “you must be straight” shit that i deal with from society every damn day was boiled down into its most concentrated, hateful form, and it’s really hateful and insulting to see someone claiming that who i sleep with is automatically  a choice when that’s not the reality a lot of us who are queer have. yes, in some cases, it’s a choice for some people, and that’s cool! it’s the idea that sexual orientation is inherently a choice for women which seems to be aimed squarely at discrediting the very lesbians many TERFs claim to be “protecting.” it’s actually, hilariously, a total parrot of what transfundamentalists say when encouraging mandatory heterosexuality…i’m sure that’s a coincidence. i’ve never had a choice; i’ve tried to will, drink, cut, and therapy myself straight, and you know what? it’s a whole hell of a lot easier to just be who you are. it took me a very, very long time to accept that it was okay to be a lesbian; some days i think i’m still working on it.

i posit that the TERF is indeed an agent, knowingly so, of the patriarchy. they are ridiculing lesbians by denying our agency in our sexual orientation, they seize upon limited examples to claim the evil of trans women yet ignore critical feminist issues, and they persist using a number of divisive tactics to try to split feminism from forward progress. one of these is the insult they bandy about, “funfem”, to claim that feminists who don’t follow their brand of feminism aren’t feminists and are instead obsessed with….uh, whatever they’re getting at with “funfem” but denigrating the idea that a sexually active heterosexual woman can be a feminist. i think Ellie Smeal probably would have something to say about that, and the TERF mindset loudly attacked her for having the gall to be running NOW and married to a man.

the TERF is obsessed with dividing feminism at all costs and commenting negatively on women’s sexuality. sex-shaming is a historical patriarchal tool to remind those of us who are women of the position the patriarchy wants us to hold: inferior.  the TERF is loud about sex work being evil, ignoring that for many trans people and for many people of color, sex work is the only work there is. sex-shaming is the final nail in the coffin because it shows the TERF is supported entirely by the skeleton of patriarchy even if its skin is that of feminism…the TERF claims that only some women can be feminists, and then goes on to divide those “some women” even further; this is actually something Raymond suggests in The Transsexual Empire that “transsexuals” will engage in to attempt to preclude cis women from women’s space. in other words, Dr. Raymond nailed it that someone would try to fragment and break feminism, but it wasn’t those of us who are trans women…the TERF is the real threat to feminism. to paraphrase Dr. Raymond, the TERF is the spy for the patriarchy, the TERF is the patriarchy’s tool in female form. when all you do is anoint the kyriarchy, you become indistiguishable from the kyriarchy. 

rachel gold’s “being emily”: a book review

warning: this review contains spoilers. if you don’t like it, don’t read it. i’m not Kirkus Reviews…but you get my pithy observations for free. oh, also, i’m back. hi!

sometimes you have really low expectations for something, and i confess that before i read Autumn’s review of this book i wasn’t exactly thinking it was going to be great. see, cis people write about trans people all the time with pretty disastrous results, especially when writing about trans women, and doubly so when writing about trans teenagers and/or children.  thus, i approached Being Emily with less trepidation than i would have because someone i respect signed off on its quality. as literature goes, i’m probably going to be especially sensitive when it comes to a book about a trans teenage girl, given that i’ve lived through that experience, and i’m probably most likely to view it in a harsh, critical light. in other words, i approach this kind of thing loaded for bear and expect to be disappointed. that said,  i loved, loved, loved this book no matter what expectation i brought to it, and i strongly recommend it. 

sometimes, you see, even a harsh, critical light can find few flaws…which feels like something Claire, the titular Emily’s girlfriend, would have said in the book. Emily, who at least starts the book out as a so-called Chris, lives in a fictitious suburban wasteland that could be anywhere but is in this case Minnesota (though i’m not sure when the less fictitious Annandale sprouted a mall…), along with her rather proper nuclear family and a high school life that at first seems straight out of the American Dream. naturally, because there’s a book, you know things didn’t turn out quite as expected, because stories about boring lives don’t get published, as much as it seems like there’s a lot of YA that tries to be as boring as possible these days.

as you might expect if you read the book, the character i identified with most strongly was Claire (that line about an inkblot in a sea of color was very much me outside of school and Claire’s sense and idea of gender nonconformity is a lot like mine) and  Ms. Gold’s level of detail is just amazing, including a perfect précis of what it feels like to have a therapist ask you what name you really wanted to be called. i also remember with disturbing clarity trying to introduce to some strange woman the idea that i wanted to be a girl and how ridiculous and terrifying that felt inside my head, and this book gets that just perfect.

what else was awesome? i adored the way that Dr. Mendel works not just as a compassionate character but as a plot device for introducing a lot of technical nuts and bolts in a manner that feels credible. it takes a good storyteller to nail introducing important details like this, and Ms. Gold is darn good.  i also liked the job she did with a supporting character, Natalie…not just keeping Natalie in balance to the rest of the story but the portrayal of her experience.  i know a girl a lot like Natalie whose father’s acceptance largely comes through avoidance and that the things Natalie says and does impart subtly a lot of what you need to know about the mechanics of passing for the new-at-this and perplexed plus the weirdness of trying to cover for someone’s gender with the tables turned…i’ve been there, and Claire does something pretty hilarious in response.

i ended up feeling a touch sorry for Emily, which is probably not the reaction that you’d expect but the reality of differential experiences always ends up controlling how i see trans characters in books. her gender enforcement experiences were much more in reaction to deviance than what i lived through, but that’s okay because this is a story and we look to stories for escape and to look at lives different from our own…that’s the purpose of fiction, and the reality that Emily ends up happy and well-adjusted  makes it kind of awesome. i won’t tell you how she gets to that place in her life because you should read the book, but if you have Annie On My Mind-itis like me you won’t get a crappy ending that makes you feel hopeless for being queer. in fact, i’m going to lay it down that Ms. Gold has written the first fiction book i’ve read about a trans female protagonist with what would commonly be considered a happy ending, and it’s a damn good book to boot.

Ms. Gold covers a lot of ground in a relatively short novel, in fact short enough that i read it in the better part of three hours, and outside the first chapter (more on that later) i had nary a complaint about the writing and the narrative, easy to follow and economical with verbiage. it’s always nice to read well-written YA from a new author regardless of the content because let me be honest with you, there’s a new Twilight wannabe every week and a half and it’s dumbing down the genre, so i’ll give you a completely non-trans-related reason to buy the book: Gold is a really, really good writer and YA needs more good writers, so i hope to see a lot more from her no matter the subject matter. i haven’t enjoyed another YA book (and i read a lot of YA) quite as much since Malinda Lo’s Ash. 

the largest complaint i had was indeed the first chapter, amusingly exactly what Autumn warned me about in recommending the book: its editing makes it choppy and throws a lot of story detail out really fast, and if you don’t watch the details carefully you end up going back and referring to it, but the degree to which it was edited makes it feel disjointed and like you want to power through it. don’t do it, you have to pay attention for some of the details to make sense later. don’t say i didn’t warn you!

i strongly recommend Being Emily and really hope you’ll read it. i was disappointed to find none of my local libraries had copies yet, but i managed to convince a couple of friends who have a few bucks to remedy that problem. if you’re looking for a good way to benefit your local trans youth and don’t know a better way to do so, i suggest you consider buying a copy (or four) and donating them to your local library system. no matter what, though, i greatly suggest you read this book. just in case you need a reminder in the conclusion sentence of a review.

a book review: Brian Katcher’s “Almost Perfect”

“Erica, Erica…have you read this book?”
“uh, no. been kinda busy lately actually…last four years or so, really.”
“But it’s about this trans girl in high school and this guy who falls in love with her…”
(Erica lets out a long, drawn-out sigh) “…so how bad was it?”

this review contains SPOILERS for the above book. if you want to know what happens, keep reading. if not, here’s a bunch of pictures of wombats. wombats are adorable!

okay so let me put it out there: while i did not dislike this book, it ends on a very conflicted note, and the author definitely wraps up the story arc way too fast and the end result is a little clumsy. i don’t like how the book ended because while i am not SO picky that you have to end up going into the sunset together and happy, the reality is that the book ends on an unclear note as to whether or not a person who is clearly happier and better off as a girl has purged, and that’s kind of creepypants. i know it happens but do books always have to end with “trans antagonist/protagonist gets screwed?” it’s kind of a theme in YA fiction, as a lot of early queer YA books that dealt with teenage same-gender lovers did. people remember Annie On My Mind for a reason, and believe you me as a gay teenager that book was not exactly holding up hope.

anyways, the book comes from the POV of Logan, a cis straight kid from a small town in Missouri…so small that Columbia, not far afield, is the Big City. Logan is getting over a bad breakup with Brenda, and in a small town breakups kind of are tricky…it’s had to avoid each other in a small beehive. not too far into the book, enter Sage Hendricks, a tall, large-handed, husky-voiced girl who he falls in love with. and, well, since you already know why i’m reviewing this book, you probably have figured out that there’s something about Sage: she’s trans.

Sage generally isn’t a caricature, and you can tell Katcher really tried to keep her as humanized as possible. her family is not too happy that she’s trans, and she is definitely portrayed much more sympathetically than her emotionally dead mother or abusive, engendering father. for example, Katcher gets it right that when you haven’t changed your ID, or if you can’t change your ID, getting carded really can be the end of the world, and his sensitivity to issues of documentation is pretty neat. that said, this is Logan’s book, and Logan screws up pretty bad in terms of how he takes Sage coming out, but i’ve seen/heard of guys doing stuff like that exactly and then come around, as Dylan does. this is where i point something out: i’d have an easier time reviewing this book had it come from Sage’s POV, rather than Sage being this mysterious person with the double-whammy of being mysterious as both trans AND a girl in Logan’s eyes. and you know what? i’m okay with how this book was written, but i know a lot more about being like Sage than i do about Logan. i know the reality of pass-or-die life in school, i know about how weird it feels to be  the exception, and i definitely know about doing the move far away to get rid of everyone who knew you before thing, as my family totally did that, and i know something about parental shame…most of my mother’s was over my appearance and sexuality, not my transness, but it still makes me feel so vulnerable about these things to this day.

at least one other review bitched about how Sage came out to Logan, and i really want to stick up for this because i think when i was a teenager i did exactly this a couple of times: “I…” She swallowed, took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. “I’m a boy.”  alright, not exactly perfect in terms of how we present ourselves as adults but this is a book about teenagers and i know damn well i told my first few girlfriends what i was pretty much like this. let’s talk about the book’s good and bad and not seize on this, mmmkay? it’s not exactly easy to explain something you barely have words for when you’re a teenager…add in being trans and there’s often not even words that the other person would explain, and you say things like that.

the bad parts: Katcher goes a little too close to stereotype and lurid detail in dealing with Sage. the latter, well, the book was told from the POV of a teenage boy. i’ve never been a teenage boy, but i’m gonna assume that they’re probably into lurid detail since after all i really remember how much i thought about sex and the bodies of other girls as a teenager and i think maybe i probably would have been as bad. i also don’t like his proclamation against self-medication…sorry, dude, most teenage trans people only have self-medication as a choice. if you don’t like it, you fight the cis medical orthodoxy that says this, Mr. Katcher, and i’ll fight the trans orthodoxies that erase and trouble from within the trans community. also, there’s violence, because, well, it’s too common, and that violence ends up being the keystone to Sage’s crisis toward the end of the book.  Sage gets a very murky ending, not a bad one, but not one that made me smile or would give anyone hope, and that’s kind of troubling for me. i know it’s only a book but at the same time…trans kids out there could use something positive that affirms their humanity in their proper gender and nothing thus far has done so. i feel like this might seem a little whiny but at the same time please understand how weird it was growing up with no books about people like me and well maybe a couple of dyke “young love” books that weren’t that great in their endings either.

Logan ends up being a pretty cool dude, actually. he starts out kind of troubled but learns to accept, and even love, Sage. he stands up to Sage’s family when they’re bad to her, and though he and Sage end up not together in the end, he understands why and moves on and he gets the happy ending.  i think Logan was definitely supposed to be the nice sympathetic dude type and that’s fine. Logan is the kind of guy i would have been friends with in high school…one of the other poor kids, not pretentious or obsessed, but worried about his image almost as much as he worries about the people he cares about. i think in spite of some words he said the boy wised up and deserved his happy ending but i am one of those saps who identifies with people in books.

so Almost Perfect isn’t almost perfect at all, corny as that sounds. it’s a powerful, flawed, and intense read. i don’t think it’s good for transish teenagers because it presents Sage in sort of a tragic light that i really don’t think is good for someone dealing with it, though admittedly in hindsight i had a lot of “oh god that was me!” moments with this book and that was kind of tricky for me because it made it a lot more intense. proceed with appropriate caution and be appropriately forewarned but i think it’s a book worth reading.

maybe next time i’ll take apart Annie On My Mind since i keep referring to it here.