January 26, 2008

Transgender Issues / Judaism

I wanted to share an amazing experience I just had with all of you. Foregoing my usual Friday night service, I instead went to a service at Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, an LGBT synagogue that you can learn more about by going to http://www.kol-ami.org/. I went this week because of a posting I saw on GayGevalt, specifically this one.

You see, the special guest this evening was HUC-JIR student Reuben Zellman, the first Transgender student to be admitted to Hebrew Union College, the Reform movement's seminary. I wanted to hear what he had to say, and it was truly phenomenal.

He spent a lot of time talking about ENDA, and how much the LGB community has in common with the T community. He spent a lot of time answering a question he says he often received when going to gay and lesbian synagogues: "Why are you here?" He even told us that there are over 200 references in the Babylonian Talmud and the Mishnah to gender variant and intersex people, all of whom were well-respected in the texts. The sermon was amazing; if I can find his contact information somewhere, and he is willing to share, perhaps we'll be able to either post a copy or link to it elsewhere.

It was fascinating also to see how the congregation (one I am admittedly unfamiliar with) dealt with this. The congregation appeared to be about 90% gay men, though I will note that I'm making many assumptions here (such as: a) That they were men, and b) That they were gay.) When Reuben offered to answer questions, and when he stayed for the oneg afterwards, I overheard some questions and comments made to him:

1) "My understanding is that transgender people are not gay or lesbian. Is this true?" As if Reuben, by being transgender, was the expert on these issues. Perhaps I should have just screamed "No. It's not true." But Reuben's answer was probably better: He noted how being transgender illustrates how society's little boxes don't adequately fit everybody. And with those boxes, it's hard to tell what "gay" or "lesbian" really means.

2) "You're the first transgender person I have ever met." This person was not young, so you have to wonder whether he had met somebody before in his life who is transgender but not "out", as it is customarily defined. Or has he not even thought about the gender variance in this queer synagogue alone, and realized that trans issues aren't out there, but in our everyday lives as well?

Reuben had been involved in the making of a pamphlet entitled "Making Your Jewish Community Transgender Friendly." I don't have time to type out all the suggestions, but I wanted to provide the list of resources so that they are available to everybody. I am copying everything listed:

TransTorah: www.transtorah.org (Coming Soon)
Jewish Mosaic: The National Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity: www.jewishmosaic.org
The Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation: www.huc.edu/ijso
The Sylvia Riviera Law Project: www.srlp.org
The Intersex Society of North America: www.isna.org
The National Center for Transgender Equality: www.nctequality.org
For basic definitions: http://web.mit.edu/trans/

Perhaps later, when I'm able to find the text, I'll include something else that was brought up that highlights the importance of not leaving members of our community behind (i.e. ENDA). That will be for another post.

January 25, 2008

Don't ask me: Where are the young gays?

I've been talking with friends about several incidents recently involving somewhat formalized panel discussions or informal discussions at LGBT events which turned into a bunch of veteran gay activists lamenting about questions like "where are all the young gays" or "why aren't the young gays stepping up and becoming a part of the movement."

I take offense to that for a variety of reasons. Firstly, in the younger generation I know very few people who would talk about "the young gays." We are a part of an LGBT movement. We work in coalition with people working on other issues like poverty, immigration, and racism.

Secondly, if you are in an organization that consists only of people in your age group, it probably only appeals to your age group for some reason. That doesn't necessarily make it bad. Just know that if your organization doesn't target things we care about, then we probably have a few organizations that for some reason or other don't seem to resonate with you.

Thirdly, who the hell is staffing the organizations you are fundraising for or talking about? Walk nearly into any LGBT non-profit, volunteer organization, or activist group, or allied group that works for justice for another group that includes LGBT folks, and you'll see a staff at least half full of people under 30, a ton of young volunteers, and a plethora of young interns. We are here! We are hard at work!

I recognize that generations before us did a lot of work to get us where we are today. I recognize that those of you asking these questions have put in a lot of hard work, and have worked many more hours than I have, or than have my friends. But don't tell us that we're not fucking here! Perhaps we are not at the fundraiser type of event you are talking about because we've spent the 9 to 5 working with LGBT youth, or we are busy helping out at a GSA event for people even younger than us, we're out of town door-knocking for a candidate we believe in as we await a primary, we're attending an event supporting immigrants who are being screwed by the government - especially when those immigrants are LGBT, or we are protesting the demolition of a housing project - yes, the residents included LGBT people. We're not at this particular fund raiser, yes, perhaps that's true (although I've heard this said in front of a bunch of young people). But why do you assume that means we're not with the movement?

When you ask where we are, often this comes along with a comment that you think it's because young LGBT people haven't seen hardship. It's true that we didn't see the height of the horror you saw of the early AIDS epidemic, but we see horror. My LGBT and ally friends and I know people who have committed or attempted suicide, who have been killed, who have been thrown out, who have lost jobs or feared losing them, who have hidden parts of their identities and lives because of potential discrimination (whether real or feared), have been yelled at and called names, and have experienced sexual violence. Don't act like our lives are that as easy as cake just because our challenges aren't the same as yours are or because what we go through isn't always public or in your face. We're doing all we can to support each other and others in our community. You are welcome to join us, of course.

Yes, we need more people to be involved. Yes, we're not all here. You're not all here either. I know that it's frustrating that things haven't changed more but blaming LGBT young people instead of the real bad guys isn't going to do anything to help! We ARE here. We ARE NOT "the young gays." We're here, we're queer (or LGBT), get used to it.

January 22, 2008

Blogging for Choice: Imogen the Incubator

Remember Baby Elena? Heck, any of you remember Harvard Right to Life's previous poster-fetus Natalie?

Well, it's telling, I think, that the syndicated poster-fetus of Catholic.net isn't a cute little girl with a vaguely Ethnostani name.

He's Umbert. Umbert the Unborn. (No, I'm not linking to him, because I don't want to give his creator - Gary Cangemi - any more traffic than my own morbid rubbernecking has given him already. And I'm not posting a strip because Umbert is rather aggressively copyrighted. But you can find his womb-site - no, I'm not making this shit up - at umbert the unborn dot com.)

Billed as "the world's most lovable unborn baby (next to yours)," little Umbert is a little white boyfetus with a penchant for spouting really tired pro-birth rhetoric in the first person. He also, over New Year's, ordered a big-screen television to be delivered inside his mother's womb (via UPS, the Unborn Postal Service, natch) so he could watch football.

Man, they start 'em young.

So I got to thinking ... where was the point of view of Umbert's mother host body in all this? Oh, silly rabbit, points-of-view are for boyfetuses!

So, yeah. Presenting a humble little endeavor I like to call "Imogen the Incubator."

Read, and - well, if not enjoy, at least think.

Episode 1:

imogen1

View a slideshow of all the Imogen strips to date.
(As of 1/22/08, there are four, each telling the story of a different "Imogen." Keep checking back as I continue to get fired-up. Also, if people want, I could just post at least the first batch here.)


(Thanks to Pandagon for the inspiration for this particular episode, and to Ginmar for going way beyond the call of duty in tracking down the Pandagon post and a similar one of her own.)

Blog for Choice Day 2008

Today is Blog for Choice Day, and Quench is totally participating. Keep your eyes peeled for a post from Maudite Entendante later in the day - and feel free to share your posts on the issue!

Blog for Choice Day

January 21, 2008

Tips for being an ally

In the past, we've posted several zine pages and blog posts on being an ally to trans folks, mostly directed at non-trans gay, lesbian, or bisexual folks who would like to be better allies to trans folks.

I was recently hanging out in a group of trans folks who were predominately straight-identified and passing (as non-trans), some of whom were gender non-conforming and some of whom were gender conforming. The group came up with the idea that it would be very helpful to have such a list of ally tips for non-GLB trans folks on how to be good allies to GLB members of the community. Coalition politics goes both ways.

I know there is no one answer to this question, but I thought a brainstorm session could help. Quench readers and writers, do you have ideas you would suggest?

January 18, 2008

And now, for some great news...

America just got the first black lesbian mayor in our nation's history!

...right in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Congratulations, Denise Simmons!

"We are the authorities on the mind"

guys, Tom Cruise scares me:



now I'm gonna get sued.

January 16, 2008

Age

Hello all! Despite being authorized for quite a while, I'm Quenching for the first time ever (per recommendation of our lovely teacozy). Oddly enough, this has really got nothing to do with sexuality and not much to do with gender, but I ran across a delightful bit of art I wanted to share, so there you are. Presenting people expressing their age through drums:





Doesn't that make you happy? It was created by artists Lenka Clayton and James Price for the Portable Film Festival. I especially love how proud so many people are of their age, and the real sense of emotional progression there is through the numbers. Good times. Anyway, hope to post more in the future, since I am actually one of those crazy studies-gender-writing-her-thesis-on-sex-education types, but thought I'd start it all off with something happy.

January 12, 2008

It's late or early, either way I'm inappropriate

There are some things in my life that are startling to those who are not transgendered. They don't know or haven't considered them, mostly because they have to do with sex and vaginas.

I would like to take a moment to highlight some interesting things about being transgendered.

For me, I had only one real New Year's Resolution: to wank on a regular basis. This might seem like overshare or the text equivalent of "flashing", but there's an actual medical reason for it.

See, as a trans woman I have to do a lot of things that factory direct women don't: for example, I need to maintain my vagina through the use of surgical-grade fake cocks. We call it "dilation", but what it means is "jamming large, heavy, hard phalloi up your hooter to keep it stretched out and in shape". I have to do this even though I don't date men or like being penetrated by a partner because very bad things happen to those who do not do it... My friends all know about this because I bitch about it. Anyone whose experience dilating comes to fade in with masturbation over time, as in (I believe) Trans*sister Radio, is either lying or really, really lucky, because that shit is uncomfortable. It's like lead-centered stone dildos, only they are really made of superdense plastic alloys, and they are just unpleasant and the dilation is not comfortable. Also after being cleaned and stuff, they end up in the dish drainer, which is no end of amusement to visitors. "It wouldn't be Em's house without dildos in the strainer!"

But I digress.

Masturbation. Women can have a hard time coming, they often need to learn where shit is and play around. I understand that feeling, since my nerves and brain are trying to come to terms with my new bodily configuration while I am trying to heal and figure out that same stuff. Physically I am tough enough (and have been a while) but the nerves didn't really kick back in until the early summer (2007), and the best thing I can do to improve my sex and learn to have a normal sex life and stupendous orgasms is to masturbate.

The only thing is that I have gotten out of the habit because for so long I couldn't come (hadn't healed or the nerves were still wonky) so I just suffered blueballs.

So while I have had fun here and there, I really need to buckle down and wank away on a very regular basis. The more I wank the better it gets. So now I have a reminder to masturbate. I'm trying to make it comfortable and regular by swapping days - dilate one, masturbate the next - but I have privacy issues in my home and it's awkward. Despite my fearless and appalling willingness to discuss taboo subjects and overshare, I'm actually very shy about the self-sex... I don't want people hearing my vibe buzzing or some other creeping-them-out noises, and my door doesn't actually shut.

Well, anyway, that was my random and not well-written exposé of a post-op transsexual woman; welcome to my world of brutally enforced jilling and cruel dildos of doom.

Yeah, so if you bitch about your period, remember I walk around bowlegged and sore from dilating like 3 out of 7 days... and because I need to use lube galore (I don't gush when turned on, darlings), even wanking is as messy as it was when I was a boy. I am like lube central. I know brands, qualities, prices, smells... I have a lube cellar instead of a wine cellar.

Anyway, I really would rather be sleeping and all this talk of sex has made me sleepy.

January 11, 2008

OurChart presents: Things That Are Awkward

Okay so I'm finally on OurChart cos, like, you know, there is girls there, and I was reading a very very amusing column entitled "WWJD". J is for Jenny. As in Jenny Jenny. As much as I think they totally fucking destroyed her character this season and I'm annoyed with everything about episode one except for Max's interaction with Leisha Haley and Moonlighting-Lady's characters, the column is hysterical.

Anyway, so are the comments on them. The best one - which I had to share - was this one about orgasms:

This is going to sound so pathetic but I had a dream, when I was 19, that my then ''straight'' college mate was giving me head. Unfortunately, I was on Xmas break.. at home... and, well,... my Dad thought I was being murdered...
pre-climax.
Haha AWKWARD. And terribly discomfy to boot, yowtch!

But don't worry! The story has a happy ending!

I made her do the real thing for graduation.

(¨`•.•´¨)
`•.¸(¨`•.•´¨) ¸
×°× `•.¸.•´ ×°×

>;-)

January 07, 2008

Yeeah New Jersey!

The New Jersey legislature just passed a gender identity/expression hate crime and school anti-bullying bill, and the governor is expected to sign it into law.

Congratulations!

The law does the following:

  • Adds "gender identity or expression" as a protected class to the state hate crimes law.
  • Specifies that a "mistake of fact" by a defendant committing a hate crime is not a defense.
  • Requires two hours of hate-crimes sensitivity training for all new police officers.
  • Specifies suggested sentencing options to which judges can sentence defendants, such as anti-hate sensitivity training.
  • Creates a study Commission on Bullying in Schools, which has nine months to investigate the problem and make recommendations to the Governor and legislature for further legislation.
  • Requires schools post their anti-bullying policies on their websites, and to distribute their anti-bullying policies, within 120 days after enactment of the law.

January 06, 2008

Boston's first transgender legal clinic opens January 16th!

our very own Quench blogger, WTTO, has been instrumental in creating the first ever free legal clinic for trans people in Boston. damn, how awesome is that?

the official blurb:

......With liberty and justice for all

TRANSGENDER PEOPLE .

We invite you to join our stride towards justice

Beginning with our January 16th kick-off celebration of

Massachusetts Transgender Legal Advocates,

a new legal clinic serving transgender people in Massachusetts.

WHAT: Kick-off celebration for Massachusetts Transgender Legal Advocates with guest speaker Mara Kiesling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality

WHEN: Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 6-8pm.

WHERE: JRI Health, 25 West Street, Boston. Take the Orange or Red line to Downtown Crossing stop or the Green Line Park Street stop.

Massachusetts Transgender Legal Advocates is a joint project between Cambridge Cares about AIDS, AIDS Action Committee, and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.

For more information about the kick-off event or the legal clinic, please contact: 617.450.1353 or
TransgenderLegalAdvocates@gmail.com