Saturday, January 12, 2008

Articles and links

Becoming a Black Man is a very interesting article. I found it to be a nice introduction to some of the issues trans* people of color face. From what I've already read, and can infer based on what I do know of racism, I agree completely when the article states, "Left largely unexamined, however, has been the issue of racism and how trans men and women experience it. Trans people of color are finding that they have an extremely different relationship to gender transition than white people."

Queer Africa is another great article from the same site.
I've been to Color Lines before, but this'll be the time I remember to bookmark it. ^.^;;

I haven't researched enough on the REAL ID act yet; it's too scary and depressing.
But this looks scary for anyone; residents of states that are against the act or that aren't moving fast enough may be given extra trouble when they board planes. I think the REAL ID act is a trans* issue, a states' rights issue, an immigration rights issue, a privacy issue, a POC issue, a security issue, etc.
White, cissexual, US residents are just lucky that at least they decided not to go through with having employers fire those whose social security info has irregularities; such as you using your married name instead of your maiden without officially changing it on your SSC.

Real Nightmare is a site against the act and here is the Homeland Security page on it. Oh yeah, here is a pdf summarizing the act.


Friday, January 11, 2008

"When your heart steals parts that make you feel real"

I happen to have Julia Serano's livejournal friended, and her last entry included a link to the youtube excerpts from several performances in The National Queer Arts Festival's TransForming Community project.

Here are some of my favorite parts of the videos I've watched so far:

"I think it's problematic to occupy male space in the world but to refuse to recognize that that is indeed the space one occupies, and to proceed to shirk the responsibilities that come with that space." --Prado Gomez on trans*men who live and are seen as male, yet refuse to identify as such only when it is inconvenient (not unsafe; inconvenient) for them.
I see this come up in the ftm community on LJ every so often. Usually, someone will make a post that mentions that they go to a women's college--or any other women's space really--and arguments will break out as to whether or not ftm-spectrum people belong in women's space. Personally, I think it is up to each individual and to the specific space sie is entering to figure out if sie belongs. But, I think that if you identify as, and/or are largely seen as a male/man, then you do not belong in a space for women.
I know that there are ftm-spectrum folks out there that do not identify as men, but for those of us that is disrespectful for us to enter woman-only space and it is disrespectful to invite us there.

"They will let him in only if you all agree that this marks him--his former girlness--the thing he hates. Some will approve of your boyfriend's maleness because he passes and he will be the exception when they say ignorant things about other transpeople. Some will tell you about how they like transmen, but they just don't like transwomen--because they're still male. But doesn't that make your boyfriend still female? Well exactly, thats why he's okay, that's why he's in." --Michelle Tea's summary of what often happens within a group of dyke/lesbian/queer friends when one woman starts dating a trans*man.
I'm mostly interested in guys and I've never dated a girl. But this one of the reasons why I won't date a lesbian or go into spaces where guys aren't allowed/welcome. Yes, I am marked by being misgendered most of my life. This does not mean that I am a girl and it doesn't make me any less male. I won't date straight guys either.

"Last week, a woman I thought was my friend decided to teach me, unsolicited I might add, why ftms were welcome in women's space but not mtfs. Because men who used to be women well, they were women and so many women have experienced sexual assault (so have I however...). And we don't want your male energy in our space. What she was really saying was that they didn't your naked body in women's space..." --Shawna Virago on women, trans*women, being kept out of women's spaces.
Trans*women are women; trans*men are men.
Women should be welcomed into women's spaces.
Need I be any clearer on my thoughts?

"I am a straight man. There's nothing wrong with being a straight man. I'm still queer, but now I'm a queer straight man. And just because this is where I have finally felt at home in my body--does not mean that I think all gender bending people need to take hormones or have surgery. So I am confused when differently-gendered people feel the need to share their disgust with surgery or the medical industry with me. I don't like doctors, I'm terrified of needles, and I would rank surgery as one of my least favorite things to do." --Rocco Kayiatos (Katastrophe) on his feelings when some gender variant folks decide to berate him for not being 'queer enough' in their eyes.

"It seems, that one of the biggest challenges with this burgeoning community is the lack of language and deep understanding. There is a trans umbrella term that houses everyone from drag queens to transsexuals. This becomes dangerous, because then well-intentioned but underinformed people make assumptions about an entire community after only knowing one person." --Katastrophe again.
I have to say, I am not generally all that interested in rap, but his songs speak to me. I was so very upset when I realized that the couple of songs I bought off itunes were nontransferable to my new computer and I have been completely unable to find any of his songs on limewire or any of his CDs at stores, though I have searched multiple times. (the title of this post is from Bad, Bad Feelings, by the way)

And his words speak to me here as well:
"I only hope that someday all my friends will understand why they have to sacrifice their own desire to have their band play at Michigan or to hot tub in Osento in order to respect, love me and other transsexuals."

Julia Seranno is of course brilliant, but here are a few of my most favorite bits:
"Well, I'm sorry. But anyone who considers transmen to be women and transwomen to be men is not an ally of the transgender community."

"Sometimes you see things more clearly when you have been made to feel as though you are on the outside looking in."

"And my dyke community needs to realize that the anger they feel when straight people try to dismiss the legitimacy of their relationships is the same kind of anger I feel when they try to dismiss my femaleness."

"And when I call myself trans, it doesn't necessarily signify that I 'transgress the gender binary', but that I straddle two identities--woman and transsexual--that most people insist are in opposition to each other."

"Yes, I do know what those women have been through. I have had men force themselves on me. like you, we trans*women are physically violated and abused for being women too."

I loved Whipping Girl. I took notes in the margins and I intend to reread it after my mind finishes incorporating the knowledge and perspective I gained throughout the first read though.

"I'm proud to be trans*, but I really don't want to have to organize a candle light vigil every night to have my identity respected." --Ryka Aoki de la Cruz on GLB folks and trans*folks.

Of course there are other videos I liked, but these were the excerpts that I found speak to me the most.


Monday, January 7, 2008


Or Utopia?

I see a lot of talk, from everyone from feminists to Christians to queer folk, about revolutions and utopias.
But do we really want a utopia?
And do you know how your utopia will be built or how it will be run?

I say no.

There is no universal utopia; everyone's version will be different. Even things that seem simple are actually quite complicated. You say your utopia will have no crime? Well, define crime. Okay, so crime means stealing and assault. Okay, define stealing and define assault. Stealing means taking what doesn't belong to you? Well, those seeds belong to the plant, not you; so you can't eat. Assault is purposefully causing someone's pain? So, BDSM, disciplining your child, and re-setting bones are all out.
There is no one truth; everyone's truth is different. So, which truth gets to make it into the utopia and what happens to those whose truths don't agree with yours?

How many utopias have been made?
How many attempts have there been in human history?

I don't know, but there have been quite a few attempted utopias in fiction.
*Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed has a moon that was a communist/socialist attempt at utopia; artists, the depressed, and anyone who forms close ties with others are hurt by that society. Artists are often shunned for their work, those who become apathetic or anti-social for any reason, including depression, are shunned when they do not 'pull their weight', and you aren't supposed to try to own anyone's affections—not even a mate or a child.
*I don't remember the book's title or author it's been so long, but I once read a book where the utopia worked. Mind you, they had to genetically engineer humans to have less passionate emotions and less ambition for it to work—and if there were any throw-backs they had to be driven out lest their passions destroy the society.
*There was a movie on late one night where a virus had killed all the men, except for a few who were cryogenicaly frozen, and the all-female world was a utopia. Every so often a man would wake up and he would cause trouble and would be killed. But even when it was just the women the utopia was failing—there was still backstabbing and the weather was just as unpredictable as ever (which caused food shortages that caused more backstabbing).
*There is even a paradise mentioned in Saiyuki; but all that means is that humans and yokai (demons/monsters without many western negative connotations) were able to live together without going to war; it wasn't a true utopia, there was crime and pain and death.
*Of course you have the classics, such as Brave New World, 1984, or Fahrenheit 451.

Now, many will say that fantasy stories don't prove that a utopia is nothing more than a dream, but I think fantasy and sci fi are a way of exploring possibilities.
Authors are able to write out all sorts of possible scenarios, if you're a theorist trying to plan out your utopia you should read the scenarios and plan accordingly. After all, fiction authors have already done some of your brainstorming work for you.

Humans are animals; humans have passions and instincts and a high drive for survival.
If for whatever reason, weather or disease or even a God's displeasure, food production goes down, what will your paradise do? Will you engineer or breed out the survival instincts so there will never be a war?
What will your utopia of no violence do against a sociopath? How can people raised to abhor violence kill or even subdue someone?
If your society is against hierarchies, how will you keep them from developing them in the future? Will it be like in The Dispossessed where jobs are rotated and everyone gets their clothes and food from he same depots?
If your utopia is based on one or more Gods, how will you keep the faith? Will you execute heretics, or just re-educate them while you wait for your God(s) to show up?

Perhaps most important, how will you achieve your dreams?
Will you wait for the Gods to come down from on high (or from down low) to show everyone the Truth? Will there be a violent uprising of the working classes? Must aliens destroy civilization, allowing for the survivors to build anew?

If you are basing your beliefs and actions off of some future paradise, you should at least have some idea of what it is and how it will come about.

Or are you going to be like the Operative in Serenity—someone who believes hard and never questions while he carries out the duties he knows are wrong, but he is told they will help build paradise?

This post generated some great discussion between a friend and I; so I'll copy some of my favorite bits here too.
"not that we shouldn't work to make the world a better place but when someone's only interested in working toward this end goal of utopia and isn't interested in all the stuff along the way it seems kind of meaningless."--SomethingElse
"I think it's a form of internalized transphobia/cissexism when medically transitioning trans*folk give no-ho/op trans*folk shit. I remember one discussion I had with a bunch of feminists about MWMF where a trans*woman said she was fine with being excluded if it meant "manly, aggressive" no-ho trans*women were also excluded."--Me
"i think [a real, workable solution] would involve a huge shift in values but it seems like it would be much more of a "utopia" in my opinion and is a whole lot less interesing than some sci-fi version of utopia but also has a lot more value for different people's needs and wants and stuff. like i don't think its about making everyone happy, i think its about ballancing out power so that everyone has some power over their own life and also about, you know, making things consentual and stuff. like i feel like a lot of stuff that i've learned from bdsm kind of stuff, like a lot of the values that happen there are ones that i feel like the world would be a much better place if everyone had those values for everything in their life"--SomethingElse

I realize that a "perfect" world/life has a lot of attraction for people (duh), but I fail to see how people can take the idea of utopias seriously. I know that many times when people say utopia or revolution they are not being literal and/or serious, but I know that some folks are and I just can't believe that they are that naive.