Transforming the Dialogue at Simmons College

Hello Friends!

The fine folks at the Simmons College* MSW program reached out to me last week and asked if I would like to participate in their new program aimed at educating their population on trans* issues.  Of course I’m happy to help!

To be more specific, Megan, the marketing coordinator for Simmons, informed me that Simmons is “the third US women’s college to accept students who identify as transgender,” and also told me the college is “embarking on an exciting initiative that aims to educate the masses on trans* lives.”  Neat!  I’m in!  But first, let me let Megan finish explaining what exactly this project entails.

She continued, “[t]his spring, we are launching “Trans*forming the Dialogue,” a campaign designed to shift the conversation away from the problematic questions that are often asked of the members of the transgender community and foster a more progressive dialogue.”  Any readers interested in seeing the final project can find it here in June.

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So, I am one of a few bloggers she has invited “to be a featured voice in this campaign and provide [my] unique perspective.” To that end, I answered three questions:

1. What are the do’s and dont’s when asking a trans*person about their experiences?

Well, I like to keep it simple: keep it respectful.  Speak from a place of integrity.  I guess what I’m saying is, it’s actually really easy to talk to trans people about their experiences if you come to us as a person first (that’s why you start from a place of integrity), and as a trans person second.  Ask yourself, before you ask me, why are you about to ask me the question you are going to ask?  Is it to learn about me, or is it to objectify me?  Is the answer to the question necessary for the interaction we are having?  The thing that I think trips up some cis-gender people, people who are allies and who want to get this right, is that they are so worried about embarrassing themselves or saying the wrong thing that they end up embarrassing themselves or saying the wrong thing.  Remember the golden rule: treat me how you would want to be treated, and interacting with trans* people, or any minority culture or person different from you, becomes much easier.

2. What are 2 – 3 questions that one should NOT be asking a transgender person?

Do not ask me what my “real” or “birth” name is.  It’s none of your business (in the case of my birth name), and actually, you know what my real name is, it’s the one I introduced myself to you as.

Do not ask me what surgeries I’ve had.  The state of my medical transition, if I am transitioning medically, is also none of your business.  Just like cis-gendered people do not have to justify their gender presentation to me, I do not have to justify my gender presentation to anyone else.  This is why coming to me as a person first, and as a trans person second is important. While my gender identity is important, it is only a part of the whole.  Treat me like a whole person, and we got no problems.

3. What are 2 – 3 questions that one SHOULD be asking a transgender person?

Please feel free to ask me what pronouns (if any) I prefer.  Sometimes people play with the gender norms, confound them, complicate them, fuck with them, and we might not be aligned with the traditional gender presentation our preferred pronouns would have you believe. Meaning, for example, sometimes dudes have breasts, sometimes ladies have stubble.  I would never be offended if someone wanted to know how I preferred to be referred to.  See how that’s different than asking me if I have a penis?

I am also always happy to answer the kinds of questions Megan has asked here.  Let’s talk about how to start a conversation, let’s talk about cultural norms, let’s talk about opinions and experiences.  I am very open with my transition, duh, I’m spilling the beans on a public blog. But not all trans people want to share their lives with the whole of the internet.  Start from a place of respect, a place of integrity, and let us lead you to how far we are willing to go with the divulgence of personal information.

I’m sure I’m missing some things, but that’s why I’m not the only blogger they approached.  I want to thank Megan for reaching out to me and giving me this opportunity.  Thanks Megan! And I applaud Simmons College for engaging the trans community: it’s this kind of willingness and effort that is the starting point from which we can foster real and meaningful dialogue across the sometimes too-silent gulfs between discourse communities.

Also, in closing I want to give a shout out to Simmons’ queer group, SWAG.  In the sea of poorly-chosen queer acronyms, SWAG knocked it out of the park. Great job people!

If this was your first time here, thanks for stopping by, and as always,

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli


* Woot-Woot Massachusetts!

The Tits Interview: Kim Guare

Hello Comrades!

Since the unveiling of The Tits Interview Series last week, I heard lots of positive murmurings from you folks, and I thank you for your support.  So let’s just keep the ball rolling, shall we?

This week I submit for your enjoyment, multimedia artist Kim Guare.

MLWT: Introduce yourself: who are you and what do you do?

KG: I’m an artist, an organic, local food enthusiast/volunteer farmer, and a chicken lover, not eater. I live and work creatively at all times. And I pack groceries pretty well and honestly…I’m pretty proud of that.

MLWT: Why bother?  (why do you do what you do?)

KG: I wouldn’t know what else to do with my time if I didn’t do this. It’s what I live to do. Art brings me joy and incredible opportunities. For example, I had the opportunity to be an artist-in-residence at the Wormfarm Institute in Reedsburg, Wisconsin were I worked on an organic vegetable farm 3 hours a day, 5 days a week and had the rest of the time to roam free and create. Art also brings me together with other creative minds and it has connected me with the majority of my friends. Art is how I get through the hard times and how I share the good times.

MLWT: Let’s talk process: what’s a day making art look like for Kim?

KG: It starts with me opening up my blinds and letting the sunshine in. My favorite time to make art is right when I wake up until I can’t take how hungry I am. I usually have some idea of what I want to make the night before. So I wake up pretty excited to make it happen. Lately, it more often then not starts with me grabbing my trusty little chicken stencil and some paper. I trace the chicken and then color her in depending on my mood and the quote I’ll have her say. Sometimes she is sassy (my favorite), other times she’s happy and inspired. Fortunately, she is sad less frequently as of late. I cut her out of the paper when I’m done. Then it’s time to instagram her and share her with the world…and my favorite part is picking fabric from my gigantic collection to place beneath her.  When I have a decent collection of little chickens, I drop them off at Chicago coffee shops and storefronts, free for people to take. It’s been a way for me to practice creating just to create and letting go. Not needing to hold on to everything.

Chicken courtesy of Kim Guare.

Chicken courtesy of Kim Guare.

MLWT: What role does your work play in the queer community? (And how do you define “queer?”)

KG: Queer to me is digging deep to know who you really are and what you are really about. Not trying to fit into the mold of what society expects from you and not trying too hard to define what you are because we are always changing/evolving and growing. When I’ve given myself strict definitions it puts me in a box and leaves me no room to just be me. I don’t want to live my life with any expectations for myself…I just want to be.

My chickens often speak of loving yourself and accepting who you are and embracing it. It’s currently a journey I am on and it has been hard but my life feels so much richer. I wish to share that deep love for myself with others. Cause if we truly love ourselves then we can be more compassionate, loving and understanding towards all the people in the world. A person who does not love and accept themselves is a person who will find it easy to hate and we don’t need that in this world!

Chicken courtesy of Kim Guare.

Chicken courtesy of Kim Guare.

MLWT: What work do you most enjoy doing?

KG: More abstract work. I love when I just start grabbing things and putting them together based on how I’m feeling.  It’s so strange (and magical) how much it makes sense to me.

But I also love making crazy, colorful, glitter covered, fabulous, silly creations too. I’m learning to embrace my funky side in my art. Because being serious all the time is a drag.

Chicken courtesy of Kim Guare.

Chicken courtesy of Kim Guare.

MLWT: You farm as well as create art: can you talk a little about the importance of farming to you and the specifics of how you practice it as a city-dweller.  Can farm work be creative?

KG: Farm and art have a lot in common to me. Using your hands, taking a plan or idea and making it happen, taking in the beauty and creating something to share with others.

An 18 x 24 inch page from Kim's fabric book, "Farmer Kim and the Feathery Ladies." Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

An 18 x 24 inch page from Kim’s fabric book, “Farmer Kim and the Feathery Ladies.” Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

Organic farming is so important to me because food is special. It brings us together and nourishes us. We are so detached from knowing how our food got to our table and that’s really scary. I love knowing the awesome people who worked so damn hard to grow my veggies. It makes me appreciate my food even more and dammit, food and the people who grow it should be appreciated!

I usually spend my summers volunteering on organic vegetable farms or urban farms/gardens in Chicago. It’s therapeutic for me. I get this natural high from it that inspires me to make more art and fill my belly. It’s an awesome cycle.

MLWT: What advice would you give to urbanites who want to get more in touch with the natural world?

KG: Well, we do have a lot of cement here. But there are still a lot of beautiful plants and trees everywhere. I think we forget to pay attention to them because they are so few. It’s easier to notice nature when you’re bombarded by it.  But when I take walks in Chicago I see cardinals, flowers, community gardens and trees. It’s about paying attention and not getting too absorbed in the crazy, fast-paced Chicago lifestyle.

As for gardening/farming…there are tons of places to volunteer. Farmers love volunteers, especially if you can take instructions well and don’t doubt your decisions. There are tons of urban agriculture projects popping up in Chicago who welcome volunteers. And I’ve often taken Metra to get to farms in the ‘burbs.

MLWT: Who’s your favorite contemporary artist?

KG: Molly Costello, Cathi Schwalbe, N. Masani Landfair and I don’t just say that because they are my friends. They just happen to be my friends because I think they are so talented and really saying something important through their work.

MLWT: Can you talk about an experience with art that has been profoundly moving for you? What work has shaped your work?

KG: Learning about Keith Haring’s work in 8th grade art class really changed how I viewed art and made me feel I could actually be an artist. Before I’d learned about Keith, I thought art was above me. His work was fun and simple. It was for kids and adults. And it got serious too with his work on AIDS awareness. He was just so real and he painted how he lived–bright, full, and funky. Also as a confused queer teen, it was great to see him drawing and loving penises all the damn time.

In New York at the Haring Exhibit.  Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

In New York at the Haring Exhibit. Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

In 2012 it just so happened I was in New York City at the same time the Brooklyn Museum was having an exhibition of Keith Haring’s work from 1978-1982. I got to be in the presence of many of his large murals. I was overwhelmed with emotions and I definitely shed some tears.

MLWT: Can you tell us about how you came to be invested in animal rights?

I think being raised in a house with 13 animals at a time played a big role. At an early age I learned that animals are special just like me. They have feelings and different personalities. If you don’t pay attention to them, you won’t see it and they just all look and act the same. But I know they are all unique because I take the time to notice.

"29 Feet Per Square Meter," 39 x 39 inches, twigs, wire, red tape, 2013.  Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

“29 Feet Per Square Meter,” 39 x 39 inches, twigs, wire, red tape, 2013. Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

When I was a freshman in high school it hit me that I was sorta grown up and I could just decide to stop eating meat. So I did and so did my sister…and there was hell to pay but we made it through. Also, I was in love with Davey Havok from A.F.I. and he was vegan…so ya know.

Animals are so incredible. It’s so lovely how we can connect with them without speaking the same language. I just want to let them do their thing and not get in the way of it.

MLWT: What’s a dream project for you?

KG: I’ve made 3 pieces so far about the seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables in the Midwest. With these pieces I’ve painted the fruit or vegetable on paper in all it’s many shapes and sizes accompanied by the months it is harvested. I’ve always wanted to have a space where I could fill the walls top to bottom with a ton of these pieces.  I think it would be really important and eye opening for people to enter a room like that because we are very unaware of when certain veggies and fruits are actually available in the Midwest and at their best for eating.

Also, I really don’t care for the conventional gallery setting of 4 pieces on a huge wall 5 feet apart from one another trapped in a frame. It works for a lot of people but it’s just not what my art is about and I’d love a space that would let me fill the walls how I’d want to.

"Harvesting the Strawberry in the Midwest", 35 x 14 inches, watercolor on paper, string, fabric, 2012.  Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

“Harvesting the Strawberry in the Midwest”, 35 x 14 inches, watercolor on paper, string, fabric, 2012. Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

MLWT: Let’s talk medium: you work in textiles but have a degree in watercolor and your city chicken series seems to be in neither of those.  What’s your favorite medium to work in, and what are its benefits and limitations?

KG: I use to go with watercolor artist, then mixed media artist, then installation artist, then fiber artist and now I’m just sticking with artist. Titles are the worst.

I think when it comes down to it, I love fabric the most, at least for now. I love the textures, the opaque colors, the way it naturally binds with thread. I use it like I use watercolor. It’s like I paint with fabric. It can be built up and layered. And touching it is part of the joy. Fabric has a story. I very rarely buy new fabric. I love donations from friends and the scrap bins at fabric stores. I have every color I could ever need and it brings me real joy to look at my pile of fabric each day. So many possibilities!

"Rosa Bianca Heirloom Eggplant", 32 x 28 inches, fabric thread, 2011.  Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

“Rosa Bianca Heirloom Eggplant”, 32 x 28 inches, fabric thread, 2011. Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

Limitations…its time consuming. I often want to have an idea and just make it with ease. With an abstract watercolor painting I could accomplish what I’m trying to portray in a day. But with fabric there is lots of messy thread involved, and cutting, and pinning before sewing, and bobbins running out, and being poked repeatedly from the needles and making huge mistakes that take forever to fix. But, I still like all that too in a way.

MLWT: Kim your chickens appear all over the city, can you talk about the intersection of art and community action?

KG: My favorite kind of conversation to have with another person is about feelings. So the chickens have been a way for me to share my joys, sadness, frustration, laughter with others and that makes me really happy. Some people have gotten in contact with me after finding a chicken and it’s great to be connected with another person through a mutual feeling. It’s so scary when we think we are alone in the world, the only one feeling sad. We are all struggling and enjoying life and it’s beautiful that we share that.

Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

Image courtesy of Kim Guare.

MLWT: Anything you’d like to add? (promo for an upcoming show, places we can find your art, shout-outs to homies, etc.)

KG: I currently have big chickens on display at Delicious (3827 North Lincoln Ave.), a vegetarian/vegan coffee shop in Lincoln Square in Chicago. I titled the show “Chicken Thoughts” and they will be up for the month of September.

Also! For the past three months I have had a monthly craft night at my place where people are invited to come over and create or just hang out with creative people. This month’s craft night will be on Tuesday, September 30th, from 5-9pm. Send me an email if you’re interested in joining at kimguare@yahoo.com.

And lastly, I have a website, KimGuare.com and a blog, KimGuare.blogspot.com. Check em out! ❤

MLWT: Thanks for your time, Kim!

If you’re an artist who would like to be featured on My Life Without Tits, please send an inquiry to mylifewithouttits [at] gmail [dot] com.  Next week we return to regular scheduled blogging.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Q and A With Life Songs Author Audrey MC

I’ve just finished reading Life Songs: A Genderqueer Memoir, by author and local karaoke superstar Audrey MC. Audrey and I bag groceries together at a shared day gig, and she first introduced herself to me as queer by asking where I get my hormones. She was new to Chicago, and I was a complete dope. I had no idea she was trans. I gave her Howard Brown’s contact info and she had to tell me later, in plain English, that she was trans. I am an idiot. But lucky for me, Audrey is patient. Through conversation over cutting cardboard boxes in half, she told me she was also a writer, and so I was excited to read a book written by a friend. Audrey’s story starts with that familiar adolescent refrain, “what’s wrong with me?” and as she matures, it becomes clear to her that this isn’t just another case of commonplace insecurity or teenage trepidation.

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Life Songs has the structure of a mixtape: each chapter is linked to a particular song or musician and the theme of that chapter is echoed in the music. The connection between the chapter’s theme to the chapter’s song is strongest in her early memories. I found myself grinning quite a lot at the descriptions of Audrey’s childhoood as a boisterous kid in Texas. Her early childhood is filled with some memorable and touching pre-pubescent moments, and I found myself cheering her on as she gives an impromptu “drag” performance in her family living room and, in another chapter, professes her love at the roller rink.

The details are sometimes glossed over as Audrey ages into her young adulthood, and as a reader I was left wanting more specifics on more than one page. But Life Songs is an important text in that it makes known another voice from outside the gender binary with moments every queer kid can identify. No matter where your orientation or identity lies on the spectrum, there are moments in Life Songs that ring genuine, and the music has the capacity to make her story universal. On the surface Audrey’s message is clear: know thyself. But the process to get to that realization proves to be a complicated matter.

I wrote an email to Audrey about her book and she was very gracious to answer some of my questions:

ER: In Life Songs you detail how certain songs have been emblematic during different time periods in your life. What place does music hold in your life currently? How has your relationship with it changed over the years?

AMC: Well, one thing I’ve come to realize is that people come and go, friendships ebb [with the] tide, loves blossom and wither, but music’s always there and is probably, when all’s said and done, the one true love of my life. And that’s the case today just as always. Maybe even more so now because I’m embarking on a new career trajectory which will make music and audio steeped in everything I do. And that makes me quite happy!

ER: What’s the status on that concept album you mention toward the end of Life Songs?

AMC: The concept album […] is still in my head. Things like that never go away. It’s been on my mind even more lately with my Karina’s Fingers electropop project ramping up. I’ll be recording an album over the next year, but it still remains to be seen if the original concept will be intact or expanded upon. Since the love story is sprinkled with politics, I may be able to say what I need to say. We’ll see how it plays out…

ER: You’re based in Chicago now, and in Life Songs it is referenced as this mysterious place, a destination that has held its sway over you ever since chapter one’s Leroy Brown. Now that you live here, do you have a (so far) favorite musical memory of Chicago?

AMC: Believe it or not, Chicago is still this strangely mysterious place to me. I’m not sure if I’ll ever truly “get it,” and that’s okay with me. It feels so vastly different than my New York experience– New York, a city in which I felt right away that I belonged. It’s taken me a while to feel comfortable in Chicago, with my New York homesickness creeping up on me so often that I can’t think of a week over the past year when I wasn’t contemplating my return home to Brooklyn. That’s changed though since meeting a new muse. Her friendship and inspiration has led me to want to stay in Chicago another year and embark on a career in music and audio. My favorite music memory here is when she and I decided to have an all night dance party in my living room– just the two of us. We danced for hours and it ended up ranking up there as one of the highlights of my life.

ER: The term genderqueer makes an appearance in your subtitle: how has the label “genderqueer” enriched or hindered your sense of self?

The genderqueer label is quite liberating actually. I don’t know, I’ve really embraced living in the middle ground. That outsider sense of “other” I always felt growing up really empowers me now and makes me feel special. One of the comments my father made about my book was how proud he was of me for having such a strong sense of self. That meant a lot to me because I felt like I went through a lot of turmoil to get to a place where I could embrace who I truly am. When I get “sir-ed” followed usually by a “ma’am… oh gosh I’m sorry,” which occasionally happens, it used to make me cringe, but now, I smile with a shrug and say, “Ah it’s okay, I’m a bit of both.” And we both smile and carry on. It’s like, if I don’t make a big deal about it, it makes it not a big deal. And when it’s not a big deal, it gets accepted much more easily. And that’s what I really want. I want us to get to a place where gender presentation is just accepted. Period. And it’s no big deal. It’s just people being people. I mean, wouldn’t that be a fantastic world to live in?

ER: The detail in Life Songs about your parents giving you a heart pendant with your new birthstone in it is very touching. Can you write more about your coming out process to them, and their process of coming to know Audrey?

Yeah, my parents have been awesome. Like, seriously amazing. The coming out process– well, I’m super emotional and I knew I couldn’t have a conversation with them ’cause I would’ve ended up crying the whole time. So, I wrote them a coming-out letter. My dad surprised me as always. He just kinda shrugged it off and embraced it with a “you’re an adult; you gotta do what you gotta do.” Haha! He did have trouble with pronouns for a long time, but whatever. It was just out of habit and not any type of slight. My mom was the one who had a little more trouble with it, but turned it more inward. She worried more like she did something wrong while she was pregnant and different stuff like that. But that was all short-lived. My sister helped a lot in that arena because she remembered a lot of incidents from my childhood and adolescence, some of which I wrote about in the book, and reminded my mom about them to shed some light. My relationship with my parents actually got closer after I came out, too. I don’t know– I guess I just felt more like I could be myself and not hide behind the same old façade I had been. That was quite liberating and it brought us closer. I also think it was easy for them, too, because I was still attracted to women. So, the only things changing for them were my name, appearance, and pronouns. So, suddenly they just had this super cool lesbian daughter. And I mean, who wouldn’t want that? AMIRIGHT?!?

Author photo by Maria Hummel.

Author photo by Maria Hummel.

ER: There are so many character who make appearances throughout Life Songs, Alice and Hailey being chief among them: do you still keep in touch?

AMC: Alice and Hailey are still very present and positive parts of my life. Alice and I are less in touch now that we’re in different cities, but still touch base every week or so. She and her brother came to visit me in Chicago in April and we had a wonderful time. Alice and I are both in transitional moments in our lives, so it will be nice to be there for each other as we continue to embark on our next adventures. Hailey and I are probably closer now than we ever have been– it’s a friendship that continues to grow and deepen. She, too, is in a transitional point in her life, so it’s nice to be there for her as she sets forth on her next journey.

ER: You remark that your sexual orientation has shifted slightly: can you describe what that shift has been like for you?

I’m not sure if my sexual orientation has shifted or if my mind has opened. I recognize that I find a very specific type of guy attractive. But, as I’ve said to my friends before, I’d be attracted to 99 women before I’m attracted to one man. And Sufjan Stevens is that one man. Kidding! Um… no but seriously, I’m in love with Sufjan Stevens. Besides that, though, yeah, it’s just an opening up of my attitude more than anything else. It’s liberating to recognize that I might meet some guy (named Sufjan or not) and we may get along super well and have the same type of quick bonding simpatico I’ve usually felt only with women. And I may very possibly start to have desires towards him. And I’m okay with that. At this point in my life, I don’t want to box myself in with any preconceived notions about who I am or what I am. I’m just me. And I’m queer as shit.

Author photo by Maria Hummel.

Author photo by Maria Hummel.

ER: What are your current queer politics?

AMC: My move to Chicago has seen my politics recede a little bit more to the background. I mean, Brooklyn is just so queer and so political that anything after that would be a step down. But, my Brooklyn experience has left me with this strong sense of wanting to push away anything even closely resembling the hetero- or homonormative realms. I don’t know if my politics, generally, would be considered “queer,” because I’m a dreamer after all. I have these vastly grand ideals that extend way beyond queer politics and get more into the realm of socialism and populism and anti-capitalism. This music project that I’m about to embark on– I have such a yearning to make a difference. To do something that makes people think and want to actually do something instead of just post about it on social media.

ER: In the closing pages you define yourself as a dreamer, can you write a little about how you see that part of yourself inform your day-to-day routine?

Wow, I wish I knew where this romantic, dreamer side of me came from. I think it’s just the way the stars were aligned when I came into this world. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of big things, or a better world, or romanticized situations. As I’ve grown older, it’s taken on new facets and extended to politics, as well. I could never be a politician because I’m far too romantic and idealist, with such strong socialist and populist leanings. Kind of a hippie in that sense, I guess. I get teary-eyed and a lump in my throat if I think about people coming together and helping each other out. I care so very much about making the world a better place for everyone and it sometimes feels overwhelming because what can one person really do? If I could find a reality where my dreams could live, then I think I’d have found utopia. But in this particular reality, in my day-to-day, I’ve worked hard at removing all stressors from my life; I steer clear of drama magnets; and I avoid situations in which I have to justify my actions.

Thanks for your time, Audrey!

After Seeing Dan Savage Last Night

K and I went to Lincoln Hall last night to see Dan Savage talk about his new book, American Savage.

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I know lots of queers, and especially trans folks, who have a problem with Dan Savage.  Myself, I’m a fan.  I’ve read his column since the “Hey Faggot” days, and although I might not always agree with him, I’m sure glad he’s on my side.  And yes, even as a trans person, I do believe he’s on my side.

I don’t like turning my back on allies for discrepancies with my ideologies.  And he is an ally, a powerful one, to the queer community.  And he reminded me of something last night: I have a right to my own opinions, my own voice.  In fact, using my own true voice is the only way to be brave and honest in this world.

As I was searching through my old posts last night, looking for drafts to expand upon, I realized, especially in my (very) old posts, I sound like a scared little bitch.

What I mean is, I was so afraid of offending the invisible online trans community I sound like I’m holding a goddamn tea party when I’m talking about being trans.  My tone is so unoffensive, well, I find it offensive.  I find it offensive because it is unauthentic.  And so my tone, along with the content, is something I will be looking forward to altering as I revise older posts and send them off to be considered by different audiences.  I understand why I sounded so scared: I was scared, scared of identifying as trans, scared of what that meant for my life.  But I’m not scared anymore, so it’s time to take the interesting ideas I had back then and give them a little support, a little confidence, a good brushing off and squinting at.

After his speaking engagement, Dan stuck around and signed books for us.  When I met him, I introduced myself, identified myself as a trans guy, and gave him the url to this here blog.  I invited him to drop by and see what this guy is up to.  Who knows if he will; he does have like a bazillion fans, but I was proud of myself for looking Dan Savage in the eye, shaking his hand, and telling him I’m trans, I’m a writer, and I have a blog of worth.  And, it was my first act of writerly self-promotion.  Rad.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

 

So Incredible:

Linked from Your Pal Eli:

Transforming Love

Fraternity Raises Funds for Brother’s Transgender Surgery

When I think of groups organized around gender (Boy Scouts, Fraternities, etc.), I sometimes first assume those groups are intolerant. I recently read that the Boy Scouts of America had “tabled” their decision on allowing homosexual participants. Helllooo!!! When I picture the frat brothers of my days as a “Little Sister” of a fraternity, well, these guys made homeosexual slurs a daily routine. That’s why I was delighted to read about a fraternity that not only WELCOMED their transbrother-but STEPPED up for him as well! AN IMPRESSIVE STORY!! Please click on the title above to read as well as watch the young man’s video of thanks!

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Lana Wachowski’s HRC Visibility Award Acceptance Speech

Thoughtful and kind and beautiful: essentially human. -Your Pal Eli

Trans*forming Family

By now, most of you have probably already seen this. For those of you who have not: it’s a must-see! Lana Wachowski, director and producer (most notably, co-director of The Matrix), was recently honored with the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award. This is her acceptance speech:

I’ve watched it several times, and each time i’m captivated by her wit and inspired by her life. It makes me happy to think of how many young people will see this video and find their own lives reflected in the story of hers, and know that they are not alone and that they, too, can have a bright and amazing future.

One of my favorite quotes from her begins at the 12:21 minute mark:

Parenthetically this [transition] is a word that is very complicated for me because of its complicity in a binary gender narrative that I am not particularly comfortable with.

My…

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Coming out…again, and again, and again.

So, a few weeks ago I posted a note in the break room at work:

“Dear friends and co-workers:

Your co-worker Eli is transgender.  Being transgender can mean many different things for many different people.  For Eli, it means he would prefer male pronouns when referring to him.

Thank you for your support.

Your pal,
Eli”

And it was up on the board where the schedule is posted, so many people would see it.  It was there for a few days.

I still get pretty consistently referred to with female pronouns.  And I want to be patient.  And I do understand, that it is (for many) just a matter of breaking an old habit.  Some people, who knew me before the name change, sometimes slip and call me by my birth name.  They usually correct themselves immediately.  And I understand, really, I do.

But sometimes it just irks me, ya know?  Sometimes I just wanna say, “look, I went to the trouble to learn your name and call you by your pronoun preference, I would appreciate the same courtesy from you.”  Sometimes, I just wanna ask them to be a bit more mindful, and acknowledge that there are more than cis- people in the world.  I am not going to apologize for the space I take up on this planet.  And I am not going to apologize for being myself, finally.

They can now thank me for not requiring gender-neutral pronouns, or the much-lauded, grammatically-troubling “singular they” in place of “she.”

So, I get to have, in a very busy and loud grocery store, daily conversations about my gender, just to get the goddamn pronoun right.  I get to correct people who may or may not have read the note.  I get to correct people who have told me they “think [they] will never get it right.”  And I hate doing that.  I hate feeling like I’m being picky or up somebody’s ass all the time because I don’t know when I should or should not correct someone, so I just better do it all the time and what an ass I must sound like, patrolling everyone’s pronouns usage.

Ahem.  Ok, I’m done bitching.

Actually, the people I work with are great.  They want to do this the right way, and are trying.  I am just feeling a bit impatient, and a bit unnerved at the fact that I have to keep talking about being trans at work.  It’s not exactly the most comfortable subject to discuss in the check out line.  So I get a bit testy–because no one likes to feel exposed like that.  No one likes to discuss their personal gender shit at work.  But English does come with gendered pronouns, so I have to muddle through these shitty conversations, again and again, until everyone is on board.

And I hate it.  I hate that I’m the only trans person at work.  Why couldn’t there have been one to come before me, so I could just stroll onto the scene and be like, “Yeah, me too, see what that guy had?  I’ll take one of those: proper gendered pronouns and complete understanding of my singular experience to go with it.  Thanks.”

I am thankful that my co-workers are good-natured about it, and do want to do right by me, and are trying.  I suppose the least I could do would be to give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them a few “she/her” get out of jail free cards.  And I do allow them the space to fuck it up: in fact, I usually don’t correct them, because I know many of them slip-up and realize the second it leaves their mouth that “she” was wrong.

But some of them don’t know, some of them were on vacation when the note was up, or didn’t see the schedule board during those few days, or whatever.  So as they refer to me with female pronouns, on the sale floor, surrounded by customers, I get to decide on the spot: do I just cringe and take it in the hopes that they figure it out, or do I correct them on the floor and have that “Um, you just called me by female pronouns and I go by male pronouns now” conversation punctuated by “Excuse me, where is the cream cheese?”

I think this would be easier for them, for my friends and co-workers, if I was on T.  Right now, they look at me and I look the same (minus the tits) and I sound the same as when I was going by my birth name and using female pronouns.  But they don’t realize that back then, in that body with that chest and those pronouns, I didn’t see myself the way they saw me.  I was always a guy in my head, and so nothing has changed for me.  I have had all this time, over 30 years, to see myself as male, and many of them have only had a week or two.  So how long does it take?  Some are calling me by male pronouns and using Eli really easily, and some have even told me that this makes more sense to them, that referring to me as male is easier for them than it was to refer to me as female.

So, trans friends out in internet-world, tell me about your trans-related work woes: did you come out?  How did it go?  What advice do you have for me?

Or, cis-folks and work friends, tell me, how can I make this transition easier for you?

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli