Thought Catalog

“What are you going to be for Halloween?”

This is a question I never really knew how to answer. I’ve never particularly liked Halloween. Actually, let me clarify that: I’ve never particularly liked the costume portion of Halloween. From my early teens onward, there was nothing that appealed to me about throwing on a costume, hiding behind a mask, and heading out to a party. Whenever I’ve been forced to, I’d usually put together a half-assed costume that looked as much like my normal wardrobe as possible.

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In general, though, I liked to stay in. I always liked getting cozy, sipping a drink, and watching a movie on the couch. As you can see by looking at the picture associated with this essay, the pre-transition days of 2006 weren’t exactly party city for me. When you don’t feel right in your own skin, every day feels like you’re wearing a…

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I do a lot of reading and writing about transgender-specific news. Progressive sites, Conservative outlets, pieces of legislation – I read it all. Why? Because if I’m to debunk so many of the half-truths, misconceptions and outright lies about transgender people, I need to know what these lies are.

It’s amazing how often I learn something new about myself just from reading sites like RedState, Breitbart, FoxNews, and Townhall. Did you know that I’m not trans, I’m just super gay? That was news to me, but CNN’s Don Lemon seems to know better. I also wasn’t aware that I was “born a man.”  Todd Starnes of Fox News and RedState seems to think I was. Though I can’t recall the details of my birth, I was under the impression that I was born an infant. If this isn’t the case, major props to my mom for what enduring the ordeal of a birthing a fully grown man. Who knew?

ldbMy absolute favorite new thing I’ve learned about being transgender: our secret goal to win sporting events!  It’s come to my attention that Conservative journalists have caught on to our nefarious plot to bring the plot of the 1992 Rodney Dangerfield film Ladybugs to life. As always, I’m going to assume that the reporting on this story was done in a “Fair & Balanced” way, which would certainly include at least one transgender person being interviewed. Oh? You couldn’t find one? We’re everywhere. Given that you couldn’t manage to include a statement from a single trans person, I really do owe you credit, Todd Starnes. You were able to foil our plot, stopping us from winning the big game, preventing Rodney Dangerfield from getting that promotion at work. Curses, Todd Starnes! Curses!

In all seriousness, it would be nice if these traditionally conservative outlets would at least feign journalistic integrity. Go ahead, interview a trans person or two before you publish that story telling us how awful we are. I’m available. I’m happy to have a discussion, make a statement, clear the air. Send me a note on Twitter, or contact me via my website (right here!). I check both pretty religiously. And maybe, if you ask really nicely, I’ll let you in on our secrets.

Thought Catalog

Earlier today, I was reading about the re-introduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill in Congress that would effectively outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (with exemptions for religious institutions and businesses with fewer than 15 employees). In all honesty, the bill has a snowball’s chance in hell of being signed into law as long as the House of Representatives remains in the control of Republicans.

Still, if there’s one thing we can use this as an opportunity for, it’s to make our elected officials go on record as discriminatory bigots. Occasionally, right-wing politicians will come out against ENDA by using things like “employer freedom to only employ the kind of people he wants,” but sometimes they’re much more overt.

For example, Arizona senator Jeff Flake, who voted ‘Yes’ on ENDA in 2007, has said that this time around, you can count him out

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Some people don’t think transgender people should be able to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender. Many of those same people don’t think society should police their own gender presentation (I agree. Feminine men and butch women are still men and women, respectively). What always confused me about this was that, by being so opposed to trans people using the restroom corresponding to their gender identity, they’re supporting the idea that people should be gender policed at they bathroom door, asked to provide “proof,” and so on.

Here’s a fictional situation, set in a world where the anti-transgender bill introduced by John Kavanaugh in Arizona are in effect. Under that law, they’d be nothing illegal here:

A woman in jeans and a t-shirt sits alone in a diner. Waiting for her meal, she gets up from the table, and walks toward the restroom door. Just as she began to enter –

“‘Scuse me! You can’t go in there!” It was the diner’s manager, stepping out from the door of his small, dark office.

“Oh?,” she said, thinking that maybe the restroom was out of order.

“We don’t allow men in the ladies’ room,” the manager snapped back, the tone in his voice filled with disgust. “Men’s room is over there.” He pointed.

Not sure what to do, she returned to her table, stunned, ashamed. The shame quickly turned to anger. Who does he think he is, telling me what women look like? What, because I’m not wearing a dress and heels, because I don’t have a pound of makeup caked on to my face, because I don’t have long hair — I’m not a woman? What a sexist pig.

Seething, she again got up from her table, walking over to the small office where the manager first appeared out of. She knocked on the door.

The manager opened the door. “Yes?”

“How dare you tell me that I’m not a woman?! What is wrong with you? This isn’t how you treat customers! This isn’t how you treat people!”

“I don’t want any of those transgenders or whatever using the women’s room. It’s for their safety,” he said, his tone shifting from disgust to arrogance. “Like I said. You can use the men’s room.”

“I am not a man! How many times do I have to tell you that?! Here.” She pulled out her drivers license, showing it to the man in front of her.

The man looked at the license:

DOB: 02/15/71

Unimpressed, the man retorts, “But what does it say on your birth certificate?”

Floored by this line of questioning, just to use the bathroom, Sam began to grit her teeth. “It says ‘female.’”

“Do you have it?,” the manager asked.

“What?! No. Of course I don’t have my birth certificate with me. Who carries that around? You know what? I don’t need this. You’re a sexist asshole!”

She stomped off, grabbing her belongings. During the course of the altercation, Sam’s food had shown up. Leaving it on the table, she stormed out of the restaurant, cursing under her breath. Never before had she felt so invalidated as a human being. How dare he police my gender like that?

Over the next few days, the shame and embarrassment stayed with her, scratching away at her well being. I am a woman. That was absurd. She needed to do something, and so she called one of her friends.

“Hey Kate, it’s Sam.”

“Hey, you! What’s up?”

Sam recounted her experience at the diner, repeating the manager’s nasty words verbatim.

“He asked to see your birth certificate? Who was this guy? Donald Trump? What the fuck!?”

“I know, right? I just wish there was something I could do. I felt so dehumanized. Who does that? Seriously. Who the fuck does that!?”

With the dust-up over articles in Bustle earlier this week (1, 2, 3), which discussed the strains between transgender women and transgender-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), my Twitter feed seems a lot angrier these days (and rightfully so). I’m not trying to tell anyone else what to do, but I figured that I’d add my voice in my own way: think of the Sneetches

“The Sneetches” is a story from the 1961 Dr. Seuss anthology, The Sneetches and Other Stories. The sneetches are creatures, divided into two groups: the star-bellied sneetches and the plain-bellied sneetches. The star-bellied sneetches didn’t want to associate with the plain-bellied sneetches, excluding them from their activities. Eventually, the plain-bellied sneetches figure out a way to become star-bellied sneetches (which, in turn, drives the star-bellied sneetches to remove their stars as a way to know who the real original star-bellied sneetches are). The groups go back and forth, adding and removing stars until it’s no longer possible to tell who is who. In the end, the sneetches come to realize that they’re all real sneetches, and their efforts to remain separate from one another were wastes of time and energy.

How does this relate to the tension between trans women and TERFs? Both groups are made up of people, of women. Like the star-bellied sneetches, generally, TERFs don’t want much to do with trans women, claiming that we’re not real women. In response, trans women shout back, which leads to the TERFs shouting back even louder. Back and forth, spending energy, but for what? So much effort is put into what could be a simple issue, where no one feels oppressed by the other.

I believe it’s possible for this to work out, for us all to fit under the word “women,” for us all to find peace with one another. I hope the two groups come to the conclusion that we’re more similar than we are different, and that the word “woman” is big enough to hold all of us.

“The Sneetches”
by Dr. Seuss

Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches
Had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches
Had none upon thars.

Those stars weren’t so big.  They were really so small
You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches
Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the Beaches.”
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort
“We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!”
And whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
They’d hike right on past them without even talking.

Then ONE day, it seems… while the Plain-Belly Sneetches
Were moping and doping alone on the beaches,
Just sitting there wishing their bellies had stars…
A stranger zipped up in the strangest of cars!

“My friends,” he announced in a voice clear and keen,
“My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
And I’ve heard of your troubles.  I’ve heard you’re unhappy.
But I can fix that.  I’m the Fix-it-Up Chappie.
I’ve come here to help you.  I have what you need.
And my prices are low.  And I work at great speed.
And my work is one hundred percent guaranteed!”

Then, quickly Sylvester McMonkey McBean
Put together a very peculiar machine.
And he said, “You want stars like a Star-Belly Sneetch… ?
My friends, you can have them for three dollars each!”

“Just pay me your money and hop right aboard!”
So they clambered inside.  Then the big machine roared
And it klonked.  And it bonked.  And it jerked.  And it berked.
And it bopped them about. But the thing really worked!
When the Plain-Belly Sneetches popped out, they had stars!
They actually did.  They had stars upon thars!

Then they yelled at the ones who had stars at the start,
“We’re exactly like you! You can’t tell us apart.
We’re all just the same, now, you snooty old smarties!
And now we can go to your frankfurter parties.”

“Good grief!” groaned the ones who had stars at the first.
“We’re still the best Sneetches and they are the worst.
But, now, how in the world will we know,” they all frowned,
“If which kind is what, or the other way round?”

Then up came McBean with a very sly wink
And he said, “Things are not quite as bad as you think.
So you don’t know who’s who. That is perfectly true.
But come with me, friends.  Do you know what I’ll do?
I’ll make you, again, the best Sneetches on the beaches
And all it will cost you is ten dollars eaches.”

“Belly stars are no longer in style,” said McBean.
“What you need is a trip through my Star-Off Machine.
This wondrous contraption will take off your stars
So you won’t look like Sneetches who have them on thars.”
And that handy machine
Working very precisely
Removed all the stars from their tummies quite nicely.

Then, with snoots in the air, they paraded about
And they opened their beaks and they let out a shout,
“We know who is who! Now there isn’t a doubt.
The best kind of Sneetches are Sneetches without!”

Then, of course, those with stars got frightfully mad.
To be wearing a star now was frightfully bad.
Then, of course, old Sylvester McMonkey McBean
Invited them into his Star-Off Machine.

Then, of course from THEN on, as you probably guess,
Things really got into a horrible mess.

All the rest of that day, on those wild screaming beaches,
The Fix-it-Up Chappie kept fixing up Sneetches.
Off again!  On again!
In again! Out again!
Through the machines they raced round and about again,
Changing their stars every minute or two.
They kept paying money.  They kept running through
Until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
Whether this one was that one… or that one was this one
Or which one was what one… of what one was who.

Then, when every last cent
Of their money was spent,
The Fix-it-Up Chappie packed up
And he went.

And he laughed as he drove
In his car up the beach,
“They never will learn.
No. You can’t teach a Sneetch!”

But McBean was quite wrong.  I’m quite happy to say
That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day,
The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars
And whether they had one, or not, upon thars.

What happened?

October 23, 2013

In response to a couple of articles over at Bustle this week, covering the points of view of an anti-transgender radical feminist and a small sample of transgender women, I watched as many on my Twitter timeline vented their frustrations. After a day of that, just as a way of saying, “hey, why not regroup, keep cool, focus,” I tweeted the following before heading off to work:


At that point, I went off to go about my day, working, writing, etc. Later in the day, though, I start to see a common theme. Trans women writing about “respectability politics,” denouncing those who advocate for that approach. I couldn’t help but feel like my earlier tweets, as innocuous as I thought they were, were being seen in a negative light. I couldn’t help but feel like some of the louder trans people online were pointing a finger at me. 






No, “modern LGBT rights” aren’t here because of “decades of riots.” Stonewall, yes, that’s one… And?  Oh, right, in actuality, modern LGBT rights exist as a result of peaceful organization and people getting to know LGB folks. When Harvey Milk urged the gay community to come out, he didn’t say, “come out… AND THEN RIOT, SCREAM AT SOME HETEROS.” No. it was a calm call to action.

Did I get called “selfish,” “destructive,” and “looking for personal gain at the expense of others?” When I asked @Cisnormativity, they ducked the question repeatedly, only saying that the remarks applied to “anyone who engages in respectability politics.” Still, I didn’t know if they meant me, and I tried asking again, only to again be told that it was a broad, general response. The thing is, it seemed pretty specific to me.

I don’t quite understand how I could write something about trying to find victory through peace, only to be met with insults from people who supposedly have the same goals as me.

All I was trying to say was that the energy that gets directed at a single individual (who will never change her mind) might be better off trying to win the hearts and minds of those whose opinion is not set in stone. If that makes me an advocate of “respectability politics” (I don’t think it does), so be it.

The whole thing bums me out, though. I really try to do my best for myself, for trans people everywhere. Maybe I’m not doing as well as I had thought.

Thought Catalog

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

The older I get, the more I realize how wrong that childhood axiom really is. Words have power. Throughout history, the right words, spoken by the right person, have been used for good and for evil. They’ve given hope to the hopeless, and they’ve been used to convince entire nations to do unspeakably nefarious things. Words convey our most powerful emotions: love, hate, anger, joy.

We need to talk about words, specifically, ableist words. One all-too-common practice of headline writing and casual speaking is flippantly using ableist vocabulary, which may cause some people real emotional harm. I’d like to see a shift away from this type of language, which I’ll get to in a moment. Obviously, you’re the only one who can determine what words you want to use in conversation or in writing, so I’ll preemptively…

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Thought Catalog

It’s “Spirit Day.” Apparently, that means I’m supposed to be wrapped in purple doing my best impression of Grimace from McDonalds in order to save LGBT kids from being bullied. I’m not wearing purple, nor did I change my Facebook avatar to a red Human Rights Campaign logo back in June.

Why? Because this alone is slacktivism, plain and simple. This is an opportunity for people to say, “Welp, I did my part. Good job, me,” and go about their day. “Did you hear about that girl who committed suicide after being bullied by her classmates for being gay? I don’t know how that happened. I mean, I wore purple on “Spirit Day,” what more do they want from me?”

If you actually want to have an impact on the lives of LGBT children, you need to do more than wear a certain color or post something on Facebook.


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Thought Catalog

Earlier this year, Jessica Blankenship, one of my favorite Thought Catalog writers, wrote an article called, “Need Someone To Hate Today? Meet Todd Kincannon”.

In the article, Blankenship cites a number of incendiary tweets and statements by Kincannon, the former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party. Earlier this year, Kincannon wrote that “Trayvon Martin was a dangerous thug who needed to be put down like a rabid dog,” that the Super Bowl “sucks more dick than adult Trayvon Martin would have for drug money.” He then followed this up by claiming that he’s “not really a racist.” Sure thing, buddy. Whatever you say.

He’s also sounded off on Hurricane Katrina victims and once told a veteran of the Iraq War that he wishes the soldier would have “come home in a body bag.” (Support the troops, amirite!?)

Last night, he decided to tear into transgender people…

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“I’m guessing you’re here to do something about this?” She said as he gestured at the mish mash of color on the top of my head.

“Yes,” I said, embarrassingly. “I tried to fix it myself.”

She walked me through my options for fixing my hair. We could strip the color, then replace it with whatever color we’d like to go to. We could dye it all a darker shade. We could try some highlights.

Trying to remember just how much I had available in my checking account, I decided on the more moderately priced option: all dark with some highlights.

As she began to color my hair, slopping the dye mixture on with a small paint brush, she looked at me sympathetically. “You don’t have to look so sad. I’ve seen people screw up their hair much worse. It keeps me in business.”

It wasn’t my sense of shame surrounding my hair, but rather a mix of about 5 or 6 other things that were occupying my mind. “Oh, sorry. Rough day so far.”

After covering the better part of my head with the rich, odious dye, she walked away as it processed. There I sat in the chair, with no option other than to look at my own reflection.

I began to analyze the person I saw in the mirror across from me, my disdain for the individual growing with every passing second. Who the fuck does this person think they are? Don’t they get it?  Look at their jaw, their nose, their chin, their brow. Who the fuck do they think they’re kidding?

I may have been on hormones for more than a year, but my reflection still antagonized me. Looking at it, all I could see was the masculine features, forever a part of my face as a result of 15 years exposure to w testosterone-based puberty. These features were permanent, something I needed to learn to live with. No amount of estrogen could reverse this.

After washing my hair and giving me a quick cut, my stylist said goodbye, leading me to the front counter where I would pay.

I felt ugly. I felt worse than I did prior to entering the storefront. It was that damn mirror. That fucking awful, brutally honest mirror, tormenting me, reminding me of what I cannot change.

Signing the credit card slip, I walked out, trying to shake the feelings that I’d just endured.