Friday, November 20, 2015

Transgender Day of Remembrance & Resilience 2015

[image description: a lit candle with the image of the transgender flag across it and the words "Transgender Day of Remembrance" above.]
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance/Resilience. Over 271 trans people were murdered this past year. We know the number is higher, as many of these tragedies go unreported. Here is a list and some brief details about the lives lost. The folks most at risk for being victims of violence are trans feminine people of color. We also must remember those whose lives were lost to suicide. That number is much higher. We must also fight for those still here and struggling. Trans sex workers, immigrants, prisoners, youth, and trans people with disabilities all face heightened oppression and violence. Tonight, my family and I will go to a vigil to honor the lives lost and support our community (for those of you in Eugene, here is the event). I'm remembering a phrase I read on a Micah Bazant poster for Cece McDonald: "Honor our dead and fight like hell for the living!" That has been ringing in my ears. That is what this day is about. 
Poster by Micah Bazant [image description: a painting of two trans feminine people of color standing each with a hand on their hip and an arm around each other. An outline of a city-scape and cop cars are seen behind them. The words "Remember Trans Power. Fight for trans Lives." are written above.]
There are many good people who would like to be or claim to be allies to the transgender community. There are members of the trans community like myself who do not face nearly the same amount of oppression and violence as some of our more marginalized trans siblings. We must all come together and find ways to fight for trans justice and freedom. Today, I challenge you to ask yourself: What are you doing to support the trans community? What are you doing to protect trans lives? 

Poster by Rommy Torrico for the TransLatin@ Coalition in the USA and the Transgender Day of Resilience Art Project.[image description: a poster of an angel of a trans feminine person of color floating above a cityscape looking up with one arm raised and flowers in their hand. A banner above reads "Trans Power" and the words around their halo say, "in celebration and honor of trans lives." The words to their left are "resistance, amor, community, seguridad, strength, orgullo," and to the right are, "power, felicidad, belleza, liberation, celebration." A banner at the bottom of her white gown reads, "Trans is Beautiful." The words on the dark buildings below read "Death, violence, persecution, detention, fear, humiliation, rape."]

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Existence as Rebellion: Black Trans Lives Matter!

[Image Description: Jennicet GuitiƩrrez waves a transgender
flag (pink, blue, and white stripes), wearing a shirt that reads:
"Mi existir es resistir," with people waving trans and rainbow
flags in the background.]
Black trans women are facing a daily threat of violence in the U.S.  If you don't already know that by now, please realize you need some new news sources (a good place to start will be some of the articles I link to in this post!). The number of trans people (mostly trans women of color) murdered in the U.S. this year has reached 22. That's only the murders we know about. It doesn't include the cases where the victim was not reported as being transgender and it doesn't include the many other tragic deaths from suicides, overdoses, homelessness, etc. This doesn't take into account what trans women face in immigration centers and in deportation.

[Image description: Actress Kitana Kiki Rodriguez stands
in the forground with her hand on her hip, and actress Mya
Taylor stands behind her, against a brightly painted wall] from
Magnolia Pictures' Tangerine.
I recently watched the film Tangerine. It is an amazing film, shot on an iphone, but more impressively (because sadly this is unusual) the characters were played by actors who are trans women of color. It is a film about trans women of color who are sex workers, their (mis)adventures, the way society interacts with them, and most of all their friendship. The acting was fantastic and the characters felt really real to me. The film does not focus on violence this population faces, but it does show some of the harsh realities. These characters (as often happens from really good movies or books, and sometimes TV shows--ehem--Sense8) stayed with me for the next several days, during which I read the news of Kiesha Jenkins being beaten and then shot to death. I thought about the strength of the characters in the film Tangerine and I thought about the strength of all the trans women of color I have come into contact with, both in real life and through online trans support communities; the strength necessary to face such a violent world everyday. I thought about the lives lost, the constant threat of violence, and my heart broke to pieces, again. The visibility in movies like Tangerine is wonderful, the dialogue through hashtags such as #BlackTransLivesMatter and #SayHerName is important, but the hate crimes and violence are still more prevalent than ever.
[Image Description: A selfie photo of Kiesha Jenkins, wearing
a black shirt and a black hat, smiling with her hand next to her
face, with black and blonde hair under a black brim of a hat]

This is a CRISIS. We all need to take action to stop this from happening. Here is a really great article written by a latina trans woman, Lexi Adsit: "24 Actions You NEED to Take to Help Trans Women of Color Survive." This is something I think everyone must read. There ARE things you can do to make a difference. Don't just say, "That's sad," and move on. Be an ally. Talk to your kids about gender diversity, trans issues, and racism. Speak out against oppression, transmisogyny, transphobia, racism, and bigotry. As it says on the TransWomen of Color Collective website, "Every breath a trans person of color takes is an act of revolution." It is up to all of us to actively work for the safety of trans people, especially trans women of color. It is important to recognize the intersections of oppression and discrimination. Trans people of color face more violence, incarceration, joblessness, homelessness, and murders than white trans people. It is important to recognize this and work to be better allies and more inclusive in trans spaces, as well as everywhere else. We must always lift up the voices and fight for the rights of the most oppressed.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dear Cis Friends

Dear cis friends,
Relating to my experience based on being a gender non-conforming cis person, or disagreeing with gender roles, is really only a vague frame of reference. It most definitely is not the same thing, so please be careful with saying that you "completely relate" or "totally understand," because unless you are actually trans, you don't. Not completely, not totally. I am not a woman who is gender non-conforming, I am a non-binary trans person. I do not choose to be non-binary because it's a way of fighting the binary, it is just WHO I AM. Saying that you "totally get it" and then talking about being a cis person who doesn't conform to gender roles is another way in which my gender is invalidated.
[image description: drawing of a person with their hands raised and eyes closed,
a solemn look on their face. A banner below says "DO NOT ERASE NON BINARY
PEOPLE."] image from dakshinadeer on
That being said, I'm happy to talk with you about how ridiculous gender roles are, and how the gender binary system is a big load of crap!
[image description: Pink block text that reads: "FUCK GENDER ROLES" and a heart.]

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Personal Pronouns, Pretty Please!

'He' and 'she' just don't cut it for some of us, but fortunately there are other options! Those of us living outside of the binary may choose pronouns you aren't used to using or haven't heard of before! So, cis friends, some requests:
Please don't complain about non-binary pronouns (or changes in binary pronouns). 
[image description: six nametags reading: Hello, Address
me as (blank) Please Use: They, Them, Theirs; He, Him,
His; (blank); She, Her, Hers; Ze, Hir, Hirs; Xe, Xem, Xyrs]
I think most trans people can acknowledge that changing pronouns can be challenging, and that it can take time to get used to using pronouns you haven't heard of before (like, maybe, ey/em/eir/eirs/eirself or xe/xir/xir/xirs/xirself). My personal pronouns are they/them/their/theirs/themself. Personally, I don't want to correct people all the time, so please just practice and hold yourself accountable. If you mess up, just briefly apologize and correct yourself. Please don't dwell on it. And seriously, don't complain about it! What does that do but make your trans friend feel guilty for asking to be acknowledged as who they are?! If you want to be an awesome ally and friend, one thing you can do is practice using the correct pronouns. As I told my friends, go ahead and talk about me! Lol. There are websites that can help you practice different pronouns, too, like the pronoun dressing room, which also has a pretty good sized list of personal pronoun options. (a note: if you are practicing with they/them pronouns on that website, click "plural." Even though it is singular, the common way to use it is as though it were plural, grammar-wise.)

It should go without saying, but unfortunately this needs to be said, too:
Don't argue with someone about their pronouns. It's not up to you what pronouns people use. Using the correct pronouns is a matter of respect. Don't complain about grammar (seriously, 'singular they' has been used in language for a long time.... person 1: "My friend just got into a car accident!" person 2: "Oh no, are they okay?"). Don't tell someone their pronouns aren't real. We live in a society that has been oppressively shaped by patriarchy where only "he" and "she" are recognized as valid. Non-binary people deserve to exist and be acknowledged for who they are, and sometimes creating new pronouns or using less common pronouns is one way to do that. Just because someone's personal pronouns haven't made it into the dictionary yet, doesn't mean they aren't real! Saying so is just close-minded.
[image description: Text: Pronoun Dos and Don'ts: When someone asks you to use a different pronoun: DON'T: cartoon of a person saying, "What? 'Zie' isn't a real pronoun. Don't you have something more normal that you use? DON'T: Cartoon of a person saying "But it's not grammatically correct to use 'they' as a singular pronoun." WHY? You are not being asked to evaluate this person's gender identity or preferred terminology. (Also, I have not yet witnessed a verson of this conversation in which the person arguing is actually correct.)] from Robot Hugs.

Non-binary trans people don't choose their pronouns to make life difficult for cis people. We choose our pronouns to feel validated as who we are. We choose different pronouns because "he" or "she" never felt right. If you have never had to think about your pronouns, if your pronouns are in the dictionary and used by society at large, that is a privilege that many non-binary folks don't have.

Not all non-binary people choose to change their personal pronouns, and some choose to change to a different binary pronoun. This doesn't make their gender any less valid than anyone else's. Personal pronouns are a personal choice.
[image description: a cartoon of two characters sitting close and facing
each other, one saying, "You had me at 'What gender pronoun
d'you prefer?'..." with a pink heart as the background] from:

One more thing: it is okay to ask someone what pronouns they prefer! It is often suggested that you start by giving yours. I would say, "Hi, I'm Coco. My personal pronouns are they/them. What are yours?" or something like that. Some cis people might think this is an inappropriate question because they think that their gender is "obvious" but the truth is, you can never really tell. If they are offended by the question, it is because of cisnormative conditioning, and it's about time we all start breaking down those walls.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Gender Diverse Comics

I've come across some great comics about gender diversity lately, and I want to share a few of them with you! So here they are! Do you have favorite webcomics about trans issues or featuring gender diverse characters? Please share them in the comments!

Assigned Male
Assigned Male is a webcomic about a young transgender girl named Stephie, written by Sophie Labelle. Stephie is clever, kind, playful, and fierce. She is a great advocate for herself and her peers, and educates everyone around her on trans issues. The reader sees Stephie respond to instances of bullying, transphobia, transmisogyny, and misinformation with frustration, rage, sadness, and a sense of justice. It also deals with family acceptance--her dad fumbles, but cares; her mom is a strong bisexual role model. This webcomic is educational, inspirational, moving, and entertaining. You can follow Assigned Male on facebook for excellent memes and the occasional bonus comic.
[image description: first frame: a mother with short magenta hair sitting on a bus with her daughter who has long brown hair and is smiling. The mother asks: "So what are you going to buy with the money you just earned?" Her daughter responds: "I'll buy books about the cisgendered!" Second frame: a close up on Stephie (daughter), smiling slightly, saying: "This evening was an eye-opening experience. I want to learn more about them, so I can be a good ally." Third frame: Mom and Stephie on the bus. With one eyebrow raised, her mom says: "Didn't we have a discussion about sarcasm recently?" and Stephie replies with arms out in front of her and eyebrows raised, "We agreed I could do it 15 minutes a day!"]
Justin Hubbell
Justin Hubbell is the author of this mostly autobiographical webcomic. Sometimes silly, sometimes serious and social-justice focused, often personal. The more recent strips have been about coming out as genderqueer. These strips are uplifting, honest, and empowering. Previous strips have focused on depression and suicide, his relationship, becoming a pet owner, unpacking privilege, and coming to terms with her own feminism (see Orcs Vs Feminism in the archives).
[image description: a drawing  of the author's face, frowning slightly, eyebrows raised. Light blue background. Words on either side of picture read: "I fell under attack by a special cocktail of depression and internalized transphobia."]
Rooster Tails
Rooster Tails is a webcomic by Sam Orchard about a transguy and his genderqueer companion, and sometimes their cats. This webcomic is also at least semi-autobiographical. It deals with coming out as transgender after being known as a lesbian, medically transitioning, being a queer and trans couple, dysphoria, depression, romance, and more. It is sweet, funny, and often poignant.
[image description: 1st frame: Sam and Joe stand together smiling, Sam's arm around Joe's shoulder. Sam says: "Yaaay! It's your T-shot day again!" Joe: "Yeh! Yay!" 2nd frame: Sam stands behind Joe with his arms around him, both smiling. Sam says: "Was it ok? How do you feel? You feeling good? Joe: "Ummm..." 3rd frame: Sam holds Joe close, smiling with eyes closed, Joe's mouth is open in surprise, and the words "rub rub rub"  are around them. Sam: "mmm..." Joe: "Uhh...Sam?" 4th frame: Sam and Joe face each other, smiling, hands out in front of them. Joe: "What are you doing?" Sam: "I was hoping the T would rub off on me!"]

****Each of these webcomics are currently updated weekly!****

Please share your favorite trans and gender diverse webcomics in the comments! I've only just begun to explore the webcomic world...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Growing Up Non-binary at the Turn of the Century

As far back as I can remember, I have known that I did not fit into "female" or "male" categories. It wasn't until I was an adult, however, that I realized there were others who, like me, were neither male nor female. To be clear: I'm not talking about genitals or chromosomes (which are truly none of anybody's business). Gender is not the same thing as biological sex. Gender is much harder to define. It is an internal sense of self. (I will go more into working definitions of gender another time.)

As a 5 year old, I requested to be called "Johnny" and insisted I was a boy. After a while, this phased out, but I never lost the feeling that I was not really a girl. My mom enlightened me on how radical, strong, smart, and brave women can be. This was really important for me to see, but it didn't make me feel any more female. I longed to cut my hair short; I hated to dress in "feminine" clothing. I continued, however, to try to be a girl. That's what I was supposed to be.
[image description: author as a young child,
with blonde hair to their shoulders, wearing a jean jumper,
and a black and green checkered baseball cap, smiling slightly.]
I was teased for being masculine in elementary school and middle school. I recall a classmate looking at me with disgust one day and saying, "Your voice is really deep, like a boy's. And your nose is big." My best friend was often invited to play with the girls, but I was always ostracized. The girls didn't want to play with me, the boys didn't want to play with me. I was fortunate to have one close friend at school and one close friend in my neighborhood. In middle school, all I wanted was to blend in. No matter how I tried, I didn't. There were a few kids in 6th grade who were making fun of me, calling me a lesbian and a freak. One day, I took my mom's advice and when I was called a lesbian, I told that person to "grow up," but that didn't shut her up, it provoked her to physically attack me. The name-calling continued through middle school (and high school). I tried to reclaim the word "Freak" as my own nickname in 8th grade. I didn't know at the time that there were other people like me, or that Kate Bornstein, an amazing gender non-conforming trans person, had discovered hir own place outside the gender binary, and reclaimed the word freak as well (oh what would life had been like had I known about Auntie Kate all those years ago?!).

[image description: author at 12 yrs old, wearing a
checkered red/blue suit jacket, grey tie, and short brown
wig, holding an acoustic guitar and smiling largely.]
In high school, I came out to most people as queer, simply by ceasing to deny it when questioned/accused. At the time, I was labelled a lesbian. I couldn't figure out why I didn't like that word. Maybe part of it was my own internalized homophobia, but I think a big part of it was that it lumped me in with a bunch of women. I still didn't relate. In college, I found a queer group. I met some people who were transgender. When I got brave enough to ponder my gender identity out loud, I was told by one of the leaders of the group that I was "either a dyke, or a tranny boy," but that there was nothing in between. (Please note that dyke and tranny are both considered derogatory. I included them because that is the language that was used, and I think there was a lot of internalized homophobia and transphobia showing up in that particular queer group).

During/after college, I started dressing "in drag" a lot. I would bind with an ace bandage and draw on facial hair. I passed fairly easily as male, when I wanted to. I called myself a "gender bender." That was the first term I actually liked for myself. I started saying I was queer, which was more comfortable because it was vague and didn't say anything about my gender. I think I first heard the word "genderqueer" about four or five years ago. I remember saying, "Yes, I am that!" At the time, I heard it used only as a descriptor, like, "I'm a genderqueer woman." It was only a year or so ago that I realized that I didn't have to define as either a woman or a man, I could define as neither. I could simply say "I'm genderqueer" or "I'm non-binary." That is my truth. For the first time in my life, I am comfortable with my gender identity. I have masculine traits and feminine moments, but truly I am neither male nor female.
[image description: author at approx. 20 yrs old, brown hair
to their chin, brown beard drawn on, wearing black blazer, white
button down, and a tie. Looking to the side, serious expression.
Behind them is a vase with flowers and a poster of a tree in bloom.]
The Gender Binary is a system (created by society) in which there are only two genders: male and female. Gender is actually more complex and diverse than that. There are many gender identities being claimed today. Each is valid. The only person who can determine someone's gender is oneself. Non-binary means a gender that exists outside of the binary of male and female. Genderqueer is also a blanket term for gender that exists outside of the binary, but with a political connotation in reclaiming the word "queer." Trans is short for transgender and is an umbrella term covering any and all gender identities that are not cis-male or cis-female (cis-gender means someone identifies as the same gender they were assigned at birth based on their sex organs). I am a genderqueer/non-binary trans person, and I am proud to finally be embracing my gender.

[image description: left image: a person smiling and laughing, with black and purple-ish hair, tan skin, grey sweater, lip piercings. Speech bubbles around them from other directions say, "You're either a boy or a girl," "You're one or the other," "boy or girl," "You can't just be neither!" Right: same person, expression serious and pupils red, saying, "Fucking watch me!" source: Fawning Prince]

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Intention and Introduction

My intention in creating this blog is both personal and educational. I intend to write about my personal experience as a non-binary person, about parenting against the grain in this oppressive society, and to share information and resources, especially related to trans issues.
[image description: a waist-up photograph of the author, a non-binary white person
with brown hair and glasses, standing outside under an apple tree wearing a blue t-shirt
with dinosaurs and UFOs, with hands behind their head showing wrist tattoos, smiling.]
I am a non-binary/genderqueer trans person. I am not an expert on trans issues. I can only speak for my own experience, and share what I learn from others. My entire life I have known that I do not identify as female or male, but it was only in recent years that I began to have some terms to describe my gender. I am in the process of coming out more vocally about my non-binary gender and personal pronouns (they/them). It is a very personal matter, as gender really is only personal, but I truly believe "This above all: to thine own self be true" (Shakespeare). I hope that in writing here, I can raise some awareness and understanding on trans and non-binary identities and issues, help others with similar experiences feel less alone, and provide resources that could be helpful to allies, trans people, and parents of trans and gender-nonconforming kids.

Depending on your knowledge of trans issues, you may have questions (or something to add) about some of the terms I use or subjects I talk about. I welcome questions and comments that are related to the post. I also want to remind readers that the internet, and hopefully your local library, have vast amounts of information that can be at your fingertips, if you take the time.

I have a page of resources that you can look over, and I am hoping to create some book lists (that I'm sure will grow overtime).

Here is my favorite little comic (by RainbowBruises) to introduce a broader understanding of gender to cis-folks who are new to the idea.
[image description: a comic showing a diverse selection of people, with the text: "women are women regardless of sex/ and men are men in the same respects/ you can be both or a mix of the two/ or you can be neither if that's what suits you/ but people are people whatever their parts/ because what really matters is inside of our hearts."]