Existing While Trans [part 1]

Being publicly and openly trans and/or gender nonconforming is a tough thing to do, even in this day and age. I wish it weren’t, as being trans/gender nonconforming is just one part of a person and is an incredibly valid part of someone’s identity and experience. Even in feminist spaces like the recent Women’s Marches, it can be tough for trans and gender nonconforming folks.

So what do I mean with I say it’s hard for trans and gender nonconforming folks? It’s true that we’ve come a long way over the years and decades and it definitely feels like there are more trans people in the public eye. Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Caitlyn Jenner, and Gavin Grimm are just some of the people that have (for better or for worse) brought trans issues to the forefront of many conversations. And over the years, there have been many legislative and legal wins for trans folks around the United States.

But sadly, even with all the wins and with more folks understanding what the term/label ‘transgender’ even means, many trans and gender nonconforming folks still face many issues and obstacles for simply being their authentic selves.

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Queer and LGBTQ+ Songs

In the summer of 2012, the Macklemore/Ryan Lewis song ‘Same Love’ got me through some pretty bad homesickness. I had just come out of the closet a few months before and was doing an internship thousands of miles from my friends and family. It was really Mary Lambert’s chorus that kept me coming back to the song and when she eventually turned that chorus into its own song, I listened to it on repeat for ages.

For many, Macklemore’s ‘Same Love’ might be the easiest song to think of when someone says to think of a queer/LGBTQ anthem. There are some who have issues with the fact that a straight man has one of the most popular LGBTQ anthems, as there are so many amazing songs from LGBTQ+ folks about so many things, including being a part of the community. Here are some of my favorites:

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QUEER HISTORY: Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera is often most known for being just one of many that were present at the Stonewall Inn Riots in June of 1969 but her life and work encompasses so much more than that night. Rivera, now an icon for many LGBTQ+ folks, was born in the Bronx in 1951 as Ray Rivera and had a turbulent childhood. At just eleven years old, Rivera was on her own, homeless, and hustling on the streets trying to survive. Despite all the hardships she faced for her gender and presentation (as the 1960s/70s were very unforgiving towards gender nonconformity in any sense), Rivera was often very open about being transgender/a drag queen and was a long-time activist for LGBTQ+ rights.

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Making Gay History [podcast review]

Podcasts, as a medium, offer a very intimate and personal way of experiencing a production. This medium is one that you can listen to at any time and often times, you can hear people in their own voice and words. There are podcasts that are bringing back the audio drama genre; there are others that are bringing news and politically commentary to people’s commutes. And there are others that are bringing all sorts of LGBTQ/queer experiences to those who wish to listen. One such podcast is Making Gay History.

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Taking up less space.

I have spent most of my life desperately trying to take up less space. I’ve stayed quiet, gone to public spaces during times they’d have the least amount of people, worn dull colors. My entire life goal is to draw the least amount of attention to myself in an attempt to have people forget I exist. There have been more than a few times in which I’ve actually had some success in that department – I’ve scared a few folks while we were around camp fires because I moved and they didn’t notice at first and I’ve regularly surprised people because they didn’t hear me enter a room. On more than one occasion, people have forgotten that they were giving me a ride home. That’s right – while in the same car, people have forgotten about me.

I strive towards this invisibility because I know just how little space I am to occupy in public as a fat person. I aim for anonymity in so many spaces because I know what happens when I am visible in any way. I know that being visible online as a woman, as a fat person, as a queer person, as anything that is labeled as ‘other’ brings a litany of hate and trolling.

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With Pride month officially done, I can’t help but think about where Pride has been, where it is now, and where it’s going. There’s no formal date for Pride but many cities typically celebrate during the last few weekends of June to (mostly) coincide with the anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Riots. There always seems to be some sort of Pride event in the world during the weekends leading up to July and a few that happen during the first couple weekends of the month as well.

I always feel like a bad queer person because of this but I’ve actually only been to Pride weekend once. It was years ago and even then, I only stayed during the day and I was volunteering the entire time. I think that Pride can be this amazing celebration of the LGBTQ+ community but as an introverted person with anxiety and depression, being in large crowds for any reason and any amount of time is stressful and overwhelming.

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The Freedom To Marry Documentary

Recently, I saw the documentary Freedom to Marry and was thoroughly underwhelmed. A part comes from my own doubts around the now finished fight for marriage equality but another part comes from just how predictable the documentary was. Jay Weissberg reviewed the film for Variety and wrote that:

Despite a small theatrical run, “The Freedom to Marry” feels designed for TV in every way: It does its job more or less efficiently (we could do without Wolfson’s parents’ friends talking about what a bright boy he was) in cookie-cutter documentary fashion. Rosenstein, a childhood acquaintance of Wolfson’s, is unable to disguise the artificiality of certain “spontaneous” conversations before the cameras.

And that’s exactly what it felt like. The message and theme of the documentary oversaturated the film in a way that felt like you were being hit over the head with what the filmmakers wanted you to take away from it. That doesn’t mean it was completely terrible or anything – there were some great moments and the film does hark back to how gay people have been treated in the United States. But I ultimately left the theater feeling underwhelmed by the production and forgotten by the larger LGBTQ+ community. (That last part isn’t necessarily tied to the documentary and is a larger trend that I’ve personally felt in the past few months.)

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Beauty and the Beast

Honestly, I was kind of excited to see the new live action Beauty and the Beast. Like some people my age, I grew up on Disney and Dreamworks films. I knew many of the popular songs by heart and The Lion King was one of the first movies I remember watching. I would daydream of going to Disneyland or Disneyworld and while I don’t think she’s perfect, I love the idea of Emma Watson as Belle.

But there’s a part of the movie that I feel conflicted about: LeFou being gay. Because of this tiny subplot, there’s an Alabama theater not showing the film, Russia has banned those under 16 from seeing it, and Malaysian censors requesting that the tiny scene showing him dancing with another man, all of which makes me want to see it just to spite them. And from what I hear, this subplot is one of the tiniest points in the entire film.

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Supporting Trans Kids.

With one of the latest federal actions revoking federal guidelines that support transgender students to use public school bathrooms that match their gender identity. While the stance from the administration is to leave transgender rights up to the states and local schools, this move also reverses work done by the Obama administration last year and means that protections and support would vary widely from area to area.

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