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 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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Pride.

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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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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Stonewall (2015)

During its initial release and promotion, I wrote about Roland Emmerich’s 2015 film Stonewall and about how the film was essentially not representative of what happened during the 1969 Stonewall Riots. I wasn’t the only one to critique the film before even seeing it – the hashtag #NotMyStonewall brought up a variety of criticisms for the film and of the decision to center a cis, white gay man rather than the real life people who were present.

And for over a year, I forgot about the film. It didn’t seem to really do that well, getting only 10% from Rotten Tomatoes, and despite being friends with a large amount of LGBTQ+ folks, I honestly don’t really know anyone who actually went to see it. But a few weeks ago, I was staying at a place that didn’t have internet and because the one video rental place in town was having a special deal of renting five videos for the price of three, I decided to finally see what Stonewall (2015) was all about.

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Major!

By complete chance, I saw the documentary Major! recently and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in the past few months. A small part of my experience was also learning that a local nonprofit movie theater does a queer movie series and being surrounded in large part by other LGBT and queer folks. But being able to learn about and celebrate Miss Major was really the best part.

The documentary is in large part about Miss Major Griffin Gracy and her story as a black trans woman, veteran of the Stonewall Riots, a survivor of Attica State Prison, former sex worker, and community leader/activist. Her work at the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), for example, has supported trans women who are currently in jail and prison or who are formerly incarcerated. There are interviews from Miss Major herself and the community around her about her life and work and there’s so much love and support in this film.

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Non-apologies and Trans Characters in Hollywood.

There seems to be a weird trend where someone is called out on a mistake only for them to issue a non-apology that takes none of the blame. Making mistakes is inevitable – as humans, we’re flawed and messy. The repeating of the same mistakes and not owning up to them is what I personally have trouble with.

It can be hard to admit you’re wrong and even harder for your actions to reflect that. Our society’s obsession and subsequent intense pressure towards success and perfection makes owning up to mistake damn near impossible but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Mistakes can often offer an incredible opportunity to learn and grow more.

All of this comes in the wake of yet another cis man being cast as a trans woman in a film. In this case, Matt Bomer was cast as a trans woman in a new movie called Anything and Mark Ruffalo offered a non-apology for it. I could go on about the implications of casting men to play trans women in Hollywood – like how it sends the dangerous message that trans women are really just men or how it takes away what little roles trans actors have to portray trans characters. This is an incredibly important conversation but there are significantly smarter people with significantly better insight that have been talking about this and I’ll let them take the ropes on it.

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Police at Pride.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about police presence at Pride celebrations – after the mass shooting in Orlando and a potential attack in LA stopped, many people are on edge about potentially being attacked or killed because of their sexual orientation and/or gender. And it’s hard not to be a little terrified after everything: in addition to the Pulse shooting, queer/LGBTQ people are generally most at risk for hate crime related violence and that trend is unfortunately going up.

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