More anseriform foolishness than is absolutely necessary.

[Trigger warning for transphobia, self-harm, cutting, self-castration, and prisoner abuse]

I’ve been spending a good deal of time thinking about the intersection of trans*ness, gender, class, race, and healthcare lately. It’s an occupational requirement, I suppose.

Anyhow, I came across [TW] this story, and all I can say is that I was utterly unsurprised. Hey look, it’s Tuesday!

That’s pretty much the most damning indictment of this country’s treatment of trans* people that I can think of.

1) A trans* woman of color does not have access to adequate healthcare.
2) At a very young age she begins stealing, in hopes of securing healthcare.
3) She is subsequently arrested, and locked up in a men’s prison for a long, long time.
4) She is not allowed to grow her hair out.
5) She is not allowed to have SRS/GRS.

Ophelia De’lonta, the woman in question, is now suing the state of Virginia.

And we have:

Republican Virginia Del. Todd Gilbert says he would seek state legislation if De’lonta’s lawsuit is successful.

“The notion that taxpayers are going to fund a sex change is just ridiculous,” says Gilbert.

No. You sir are ridiculous.


Harold Clarke, who became Virginia’s corrections director last year, says it would be a security risk to allow the surgeries because Virginia’s inmates are housed according to their gender at birth, not anatomy.

Oh! If only there were a solution to this dilemma. (I have a solution to this dilemma.)

The article itself is pretty sorry. I definitely award bonus points for framing Ms. De’lonta’s cutting as central to the issue. If there’s one thing I’ve seen over and over and over again, it’s people (trans and cis alike) framing self-harm as a central reason why trans* people should have access to medical care. False. Our shared humanity is reason enough.


Gender identity enigma

Caster Semenya
Caster Semenya
Semenya is a hermaphrodite

Fair playing field
Unfair advantage
Distinct advantages against women in sports

Forced to have gender testing
The concept makes precious little sense

Muscle mass
Male muscling
Bone structure
Intrinsic biology
Strength of men
Skeletal structure
Masculine physiognomy
Having both male and female sex chromosomes

It’s believed

One-time man

She’s 57
A transsexual Masters for aging duffers

Transgendered individuals

Reassignment surgery
Gender-reassignment surgery
Switching anatomy if not human atoms
Some among us recreate their very identity

Entitlement privileges
Conundrum of applying broad civil rights
Privileges that she feels she is now entitled to

Even Dr. Renee Richards
Male-to-female tennis player
Mixed transgendered doubles at Wimbledon

Not created equal
The measure of a man
Remains that of a man
The measure of a woman
Female but transgendered to male
The two can’t be conjoined into one

Born and raised a female
Though never officially confirmed
A female, too, both legally and in her own mind

Core reality has been blurred

These are but a few of the words in today’s Toronto Star.


[Trigger Warning: transphobia, violence, including sexual violence]

November 20th is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to acknowledge, publicize, and mourn the lives lost to transphobic violence in the past year.

I’m simply too tired to go into all the gory details. I’m afraid I didn’t get to the local ceremony. Perhaps the local university never found someone to step up and organize an event. My bad.

At its base, I think the day of remembrance is about safety. As far as I’m concerned, one of the most basic human rights is having the ability to move about one’s neighborhood without fearing the probability of violence.

At the moment, I don’t feel that I have that freedom. I’m certainly not alone in this– many of us who are able to get around cannot be certain we’ll be able to do so safely. Many of us fortunate enough to have homes do not feel safe therein.

Transphobia is a major contributor to the violence many of us face (to say nothing of homelessness).

The day of remembrance is a time to bring transphobia front-and-center in discussions of violence. It was conceived of, and still is, a radical act– the public commemoration of our dead in a world that trivializes our existence. Read more…

My heartfelt condolences to friends of Mary Daly, and to the women everywhere who her work touched in a positive way.

I don’t have a lot to say about Daly, but rather the reaction to it in the feminist blogosphere. Her work and its legacy is continuing source of harm to a lot of transsexual people, notably transsexual women. Daly’s brand of feminism didn’t take into account the realities of people of color, or heterosexual women, or a lot of people, really. Yet, she was an extraordinarily important figure in 20th century feminism and inspired countless women to fight for social justice.

Various bloggers (as is not uncommon, I’m crushing on Sady at Tiger Beatdown) have framed Daly’s legacy as a complicated and not entirely positive one. What’s depressingly unsurprising is the amount and nature of the acrimony I’ve seen. Some commenters attacked Melissa McEwan for, well, I’m not exactly sure what, but their point seems to be that she wasn’t being mean enough to Daly. Oh! Is anyone in the mood for transphobia? I’ve seen folks use Daly’s passing as an opening to give their opinions about what’s wrong with transsexual women (e.g., why Daly was right), tell us what to do with our bodies, imply that we don’t know how to read, rehash what they think is wrong with the term “cis.” Also, you may have never heard that Leslie Feinberg makes stuff up (I don’t get it, but I hear that a lot from folks who tend not to like trans people). And there were these trans people once who were really mean, so you know, all trans people are…. Bingo!!!!! Speaking of not racist, did you know that Audre Lorde was on the drugs?

Historiann makes a lot of really good points about the blogosphere’s limitations, although I have to disagree with what I see as her implication that transsexual women are some sort of fringe group, and that we can’t please all the people all the time, and…. Anyhow, the thread on that post contains a subset of the nasty things I mentioned above, verifying some of the issues that Historiann sees with discourse on internet.

So, like any good blogger, I’m going to discuss Mary Daly by changing the subject to something entirely different. Germaine Greer, goddess be praised, is still with us. She’s also written some incredibly hateful things about transsexual women. I’m not talking about “back in the day”, either. As late as 2009, she’s been publicly railing against us– there’s simply no way one can talk about Greer’s transphobia as a historical phenomenon that contrasts with her recent private views. As the whole Rachel Padman outing shows, Greer hasn’t just been interested in saying mean things about trans women– she’s actually had the follow through to actively hurt specific trans women. All of this, I don’t like so much.

Speaking of which, last year I was exploring programs to involve the public in urban ecology and insect conservation. I occasionally do this sort of thing, on account of how it’s somewhat related to my job, and my Ph. D. research, and I find it interesting and worthwhile. It turns out that there’s this great group out in the UK, Buglife, that does really great things. I was impressed, and spend some time poking around their website. Eventually, Germaine Greer’s name turned up. Multiple times. On account of how she’s the president of the organization.

In my mind, Germaine Greer has done some things that are, well, I don’t like the word unforgivable, and I’m not sure if it applies here, but it’s certainly close. She’s also done (and is doing) some really laudable things. Oh! Here’s the kicker– devil Greer and angel Greer are like, totally the same person! What do you do with a person like that? I’ve often wondered what would happen if I met Greer for cookies and tea. I mean, wow… what would we talk about? Would we be able to talk? Anyhow, we’re not exactly neighbors, so that’s an unlikely scenario.

Mary Daly and Germaine Greer symbolize a much larger issue that I face as a transsexual woman– that of a world of people, including fundamentally good people (which frankly, is most of them) that say or do (or don’t do) certain things that offend me. I know plenty of people who say great things about Daly or Greer, do I cut them out of my life for siding with “the enemy”? Should I stop listening to Le Tigre on account of the band’s mention of Greer in Hot Topic? Do I owe Kathleen Hanna a letter?

This isn’t just about famous feminists or the lineup at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. Literally every day, I find myself interacting with people, friends even, who are blinded by cissexual privilege. And yes, I am using the words literally, every, and day correctly– heads it’s salad for for dinner, tails you’ve said or done something that I’ve found deeply hurtful. Sometimes comments come out from people who don’t know that I’m trans. Other times, acquaintances know that I’m trans, but say things about trans people that they don’t intend to apply to me on account of how I’m totally not like other trans people. Every single day of my life I need to deal with people who I have a complicated relationship with– including friends and loved ones who are really, truly, awesome people, yet don’t entirely get the trans thing. Transphobia– our society is soaking in it, and I can’t simply choose to live in a alternate universe where this isn’t the case. People are complicated. Life is complicated.

Which brings me back to Mary Daly, who as C. L. Minou points out in something she posted while I was working on this, is a complicated woman. Wave-particle duality comes to mind. Discussing Daly’s life isn’t just a matter of choosing between black or white. Daly doesn’t simply present as a shade of gray. Her legacy can be both black and white. How one chooses to eulogize Daly depends on where one is coming from. While am I resolute in my conviction that it’s important to acknowledge all of the harm Daly did to my community, I also respect that this does not prevent her from being a “good person”.

Discussing complicated people is difficult. However, if I can find I way to navigate society, and if physicists can find a way to explain light, I’d like to think we can have a respectful conversation about the legacy of Mary Daly. Thank you to each and every one of you who has attempted to make that conversation a reality.

Originally posted at Duck, Duck, Gay Duck the First.

I hate you. Please go away, and take your smug cissexual “allies” with you.

I really can’t muster many words at the moment. After hearing about [TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of epic transphobia] your latest failure, I’m heading home for the afternoon for some hot tea and a soothing bath. Maybe I’ll hide under the covers for a while.

Seriously? This shit [I'm not linking to it, wade over to the original piece at your own risk] is a hazard to my mental health. I can’t be the only trans person who feels this way. I’d add that your shit is also a hazard to my physical health, given the logical consequences of having yet another public “dialogue” about such “challenging” issues.

And yes, I do struggle with mental illness, and yes, I am seeing people about it. Look, I know a substantial portion of the population hates me, views me as broken, defective, deviant, and dangerous. I know that there are plenty of folks out there who, either through privilege or active hostility, want to hurt me and my family. I know this, because it’s fucking happened. And yes, I know that plenty of supposed cissexual “allies” speak harshly about me. This shit can be hard to deal with, you know?

Surely, you know what it’s like to live on guard. You’ve had practice steeling yourself against the next, unpredictable blow in a society that most of the time barely tolerates your existance. You know it’s stressful and painful. I know this, because prior to several months ago, I regularly read many of your posts and the accompanying comment threads. Ironic is not the word I’m looking for. Cruel, perhaps.

Stop digging. I don’t want to hear you talk about fostering dialogue (on whether my identity is valid), or challenging readers (about whether bigotry is acceptable), or about how you’re not a safe space (Good for you! It must be so fun and “edgy” for you guys to not have to worry about people who aren’t you). This is all so last week for me. And every week.

Thus, I ask you to STFU already. Seriously.

H/T: C. L. Minou, via Shakesville

N. B.: Hate is a strong word, and I’m not entirely sure that it’s the correct word for what I’m feeling. I need time to process. Lest anyone Bilerico apologists take this as evidence of my hateful, unbalanced nature, permit me to remind you that I’m not the one passing off hate speech as part of a “debate”.

Originally posted at Duck, Duck, Gay Duck the First.

Here’s some background and personal thoughts to accompany my recently posted letter to Morehouse administrators.

As some folks are already aware, Morehouse College recently announced a new “Appropriate Attire Policy.” According to CNN, the policy prohibits several things, including “the wearing of “women’s clothes, makeup, high heels, and purses” by members of the all-male student body. In public comments about the policy, Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. William Bynum implied that “about five” students were particularly problematic, in that their wearing feminine attire and “gay lifestyle” did not fit the college’s vision of Morehouse men. This latest incident does not come out of the blue. As Reverend Irene Monroe writes, there has long been tension within the Morehouse community about the possibility of gay or bisexual Morehouse students.

I have seen a few blogs carry this story, as well as CNN. I haven’t yet seen anything in The Chronicle of Higher Education, perhaps because there isn’t anyone in their offices who has the vision to see this as one of the top 10-20 stories in higher education on any given day. Hopefully this will change. The Morehouse gay students’ group, Morehouse Safe Space, hasn’t spoken out against this policy—reports are that they largely supported the new dress code. As a white woman, life-long northerner, and a transsexual woman who constantly has to fight for her right to be included in women’s spaces (and not relegated to men’s ones), I’ve had to overcome my worries about having my voice dismissed on this issue. However, more people need to speak out. Read more…

18 October 2009

Dr. William Bynum

Vice President for Student Services

Morehouse College

830 Westview Drive SW

Atlanta, GA 30314

Dear Dr. Bynum:

I hope this letter finds you and the Morehouse College community well. It is in part due to the respect I have for your institution that I am compelled to write to you today in regards to Morehouse’s recently announced “Appropriate Attire Policy.” While I have many personal and professional discomforts with dress codes, I indulge you to consider three issues with the portion of the attire policy that prohibits the wearing of clothing typically associated with women.

First and foremost, I am gravely concerned with the impact of this policy on gay, bisexual, transgender and queer members of the Morehouse community. This policy tells some of your community’s most vulnerable members that they should be ashamed, and that they are not welcome. As an educator, I find this stance counterproductive. As a queer woman, I find any policy that fosters the self-hatred I so often see my brothers and sisters struggling under to be abhorrent. As the Morehouse College administration is well aware, self-hatred is not the only form of violence facing GLBTQ Morehouse students, faculty, and staff. This policy would appear to condone further hostility towards my family at Morehouse, notably the roughly five students you have referred to in public statements. I am as fearful as I am confident that this policy is a step in the wrong direction.

Second, while you are justifiably proud of Morehouse’s tradition of producing leaders of the black community, I ask you to reconsider who that communities includes. When your community included Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., did it also include Bayard Rustin? Does your community include Moses Cannon and his late sister Latiesha Green, who were both shot because a young man objected to who they were, as they sat in a car in our city of Syracuse? Is their family part of your family? LGBTQ people of color have leadership to offer your community. In the face of oppression, they and I need leaders of our own. Will Morehouse graduates provide them?

Lastly, I ask you to consider the economic, psychological, and physical violence that all women, particularly women of color face. Women will not be able to end this violence on our own. The letter of a white, female college professor will not end this violence. In addition to our own collective strength, we need men who are willing to be leaders in their communities. We need Morehouse men. How does a policy that encourages the hatred and fear of femininity and feminine accoutrement bring my sisters and me closer to equality and safety?

I am sure that you have received many passionate pleas on this matter. I anticipate and appreciate your patient consideration of the needs of our respective communities.

Warmest Regards,

Katherine J. Forbes, Ph. D.

CC: Ms. Melissa McEwan

Rev. Irene Moore Monroe

Ms. Monica Roberts

Ms. Pam Spaulding

18 October 2009, 930pm

My apologies to Reverend Irene Monroe for completely and inexcusably getting her name wrong in my initial post. I really do read her online work, and find it troubling that I didn’t get her name correct.

Originally posted at Duck, Duck, Gay Duck the First.

[Trigger Warning: Transphobia and violence]

As many people are aware, this morning the jury reached a verdict in the trial of Dwight DeLee for the murder of Lateisha Green. That verdict was that DeLee was guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime, and of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. I am relieved that the trial ended, and I hope that this verdict brings some small degree of closure to Green’s friends and family, who have suffered tremendously in the months since Lateisha’s murder. I’m pleased to see that they have taken some solace in the ruling.

Personally, I am glad to see that the jury recognized that hatred against queer people (although the statute as written and interpreted applies only to actual and perceived sexual orientation) was behind this horrible crime. I’m not a big fan of the manner in which our society uses prisons as a way of dealing with crime. I don’t feel that longer sentences deter crime. However, I am tremendously upset that the jury did not recognize this crime for what it was– murder. In my opinion, pointing a gun inside a car window and firing represents an intent to kill somebody. Further, while the jury did find Dwight DeLee guilty of a hate crime, I’m still concerned that the identity of the car’s passengers may have impacted the way they viewed the crime. I’m not a legal scholar, and am not aware of cases of other people who have been shot and killed in a similar manner, but I’d like to think that their cases brought murder convictions.
Read more…

[Trigger Warning: Transphobia and violence]
As of this writing, the trial of Dwight DeLee has gone to the jury for deliberations.

Laura Vogel of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TDLEF) has been posting thorough summaries of the testimony. At the moment, I’m not inclined to discuss much other than pointing folks to the summaries, which describe in graphic and uncomfortable detail the events of November 14. Here are links to TDLEF‘s summaries for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Here are a couple of observations for future consideration:
In both the defense and the prosecution’s closing statements, attorneys referred to Star using a male name (presumably her birth and/or legal name) followed by her name. All attorneys used female pronouns in reference to her.
The defense attorney stated that on the evening of November 14, Lateisha Green [referred to using her birth name] was wearing nothing “that says this is a person a different sexual orientation.”
Chief Assistant DA Doran reminded the jury that the hate crimes statute is written to include crimes based both on actual and perceived sexual orientation: “It’s not about whether [Lateisha Green] was gay (we know he [sic] was).”
I need to let a certain amount of time pass before I write anything substantial, but I do want to make the observation that there is no reason why attorneys could not simultaneously respect Lateisha Green’s identity while simultaneously seeking a hate crimes conviction on the basis of perceived sexual orientation. The lack of nuance on the part of those who ridiculed Mark Cannon, Teish, and Star is neither inconsistent with the application of a hate crimes enhancement, nor is it justification to disrespect Lateisha Green’s identity.
My perception is that the attorneys’ decisions to refer to Lateisha Green as if she were a gay man is either strategic or related to their interpretation of their duties as professionals. I find the whole situation infuriating, and at some point may make more pointed comments about the judge and attorneys, and a legal system imbued with cissexual privilege. I want to challenge that privilege and those who perpetuate it, but I also am convinced that all parties involved were acting in a highly professional manner, and in a very respectful manner (within the context of that privilege).
Also, I want to voice my annoyance at seeing the local media refer to Lateisha Green as a transgender person or transgender individual. These statements are true, but it offends me to see media outlets avoid referring to her as a woman, either through ignorance or otherwise.

Originally posted at Duck, Duck, Gay Duck the First.