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I really don’t know what it is to “be a guy.” Sure, I lived as one for the majority of my life, but when people ask what it’s like to be able to “see both sides,” I don’t really have an answer. I could very easily give you a comparison of what it’s like to feel intense dysphoria with myself versus not feeling dysphoric, but my experience as “a guy” is so epically different from that of your average cisgender man that a true comparison cannot be made. I could give you a breakdown of the difference in how society treats someone they read as a man in comparison to someone they read as a woman, but that’s not the same as being able to verbalize what it’s like to actually be a guy.

beamanOne of my friends tweeted that asking a trans woman what it’s like to be a man is like asking Jane Goodall what it was like being a chimpanzee. That analogy really hit home. My experience as a guy was more one of careful observation, of imitation, not am authentic representation of the actual experience as a man.

Though, thinking about it, I don’t know if any of us could accurately explain what it’s like to be anything. There is no such thing as shared experience when it comes to life, and to argue that there is, as some trans exclusionary radical feminists assert (stating that there is a “shared experience” among women), is to completely ignore the impact class, race, disability, and health has on our everyday lives. They use this reasoning to back up their belief that trans women are really just men. I’ve written about this topic, and I’ve refuted every one of their arguments, but I can tell you one thing for sure: I am not a man, and if there’s supposedly universal experience men have, it remains as much a mystery to me as it does to any other woman.

The question of whether or not I have benefited from “male privilege” is more easily answered: yes, I have benefited from male privilege in my life. For the first 26 years of my life, the world treated me as they would any other male infant, boy, and man. Sadly, in society as it currently exists, this is a distinct advantage in the world. I understand this, as I have realized what it’s like to lose said male privilege.

As I began presenting myself as a woman to the public, I was amazed at how different things can be. Co-workers talked over me, I got skipped over for promotions, strangers felt that they had the right to harass me on the street by commenting on my appearance or telling me to smile. The world’s sexism hit me in such an obvious, intense, disgusting way. If we are to change that, we need to attack the source of the problem: the sexism, itself, rather than lashing out at one another. Male privilege exists because sexism exists. Sexism exists because the world operates by patriarchy. Arguing over “shared experiences” and authenticity is only a distraction from the true problem: the fact that society looks down on feminine behavior, whether from a cisgender or transgender woman. Masculine behaviors are considered superior in almost every way.

What’s it like being a man? Hell if I know. The better question is why men are treated so much better than women (there are historical and sociological answers to this, but the entire concept is bullshit).

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Thought Catalog

I could be in my living room. I could be on a bus. Sometimes I’m in my bedroom. Sometimes I’m at my desk. The location matters less than the event, itself. The event? A panic attack.

A panic attack is a period of fear or apprehension, brought on suddenly with or without apparent cause. While the phrase is sometimes used colloquially to refer to smaller worries (“you almost gave me a panic attack!”), an actual panic attack is something much more debilitating.

The other night, I had one of these panic attacks. Over the years, I’ve learned that the best way for me to overcome these is simply to let them play out. As I felt one coming on, I decided to start writing down my thoughts and feelings. Since I was headed into this, anyway, I figured that it might make some interesting post-attack reading. Without further ado, here’s…

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PRE-JULY 1, 2014

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POST-JULY 1, 2014

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With ENDA clearing the 60 vote threshold to pass out of the Senate, sending it to the House (where it likely won’t even be brought up for a vote), I wanted to use this opportunity to highlight one of the most powerful things said during the last time this bill was debated.

The LGB community tends to point to former congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) as one of the leading advocates for “LGBT rights,” but in reality, he did nothing to advance the rights of transgender individuals. The last time the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was debated in the House (2007), Frank and others caved when it came to including protections for transgender individuals in the bill, pulling the amendment that would include protections on the basis of gender identity at the last minute.

One man fought for us.

Below is the most genuine, most passionate defense of the inclusion of transgender protections within ENDA ever to be made on the floor of Congress. No, it wasn’t made by Barney Frank, but rather, embattled former representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY). Before the texting scandal, the resignation from Congress, the failed mayoral bid; he was our champion.

Say what you want about Weiner, but in a “credit where credit is due” sense, I applaud him for the words spoken on October 23, 2007. 

Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, later on this week or perhaps early next week, this House will embark on the latest chapter in our Nation’s history of extending the civil rights that all Americans should be entitled to to one other group. We will be considering the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. It is an effort to make sure that people are not discriminated against in their workplace because of their sexual orientation, because of their gender identity. It is something that is intuitive to so many Americans, and, frankly, the overwhelming number of Americans. And it is an example of how sometimes we in this House lead on civil rights issues and sometimes we follow.

In this case, it is a little bit of each. Under ENDA, we will be following to a large degree. Hundreds of companies, including virtually all of the Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 companies, already recognized fundamentally that it is good business to judge people by the quality of their work, their intellect, their drive, by what they bring to the business, not what their sexual orientation or gender identity is.

Overwhelming numbers of companies, and not just companies that you would describe as being progressive, but companies from all across the political spectrum, financial services groups like American Express and J.P. Morgan and Lehman. You have companies like Clear Channel Communication, Coca-Cola, Nationwide Insurance, Nike, Microsoft. These are all companies that, when they write the contracts for their other workers, it is fundamental to them that there will be no discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

For these companies and for the 90 percent or so of American people that responded to a Gallup poll in 2007, employment nondiscrimination based on gender identity and based on sexual orientation is obvious; it is not even an innovation.

But we are going to be leading in some important ways. There are still about 30 percent of people who respond to polls who are members of the lesbian, bisexual and transgender community who say that they experience discrimination at the workplace regularly. Some of them, 25 percent, say they experience it on a regular basis. Why should that be? Is that an American value? Is it an American value to say we should discriminate on someone based on the sense of who they love or how they express it? Of course not.

So, for those men and women throughout all 50 States, we will be leading later on this week when we pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. But it is very important that we also realize that we are leading on another element to this discussion. There is an active discussion going on in this Chamber and elsewhere whether or not to include gender identity in the same category we include sexual orientation. I say unequivocally the answer is yes. There are people who every day experience discrimination because of their gender identity.

Susan Stanton spent 14 years as the Largo, Florida city manager; 14 years, obviously doing a good job, rehired, reappointed. Susan was once Steve Stanton. When [she] started hormone therapy and planned to become a woman, was fired.

Diane Schroer, 25 years of distinguished service in the Army as David. Recorded 450 parachute jumps, received the Defense Superior Service Medal, hand picked to lead a classified national security operation. Retired and was offered a job with a private homeland security consulting firm. The offer was rescinded when Schroer explained he was transgender and wanted to begin the job as a woman.

But the question has come up: If we can’t include gender identity in this bill, should we do anything at all? Should we take half a loaf?

My colleagues, I think the answer is no. I think we cannot toss this element of an important civil rights coalition to the side. We have to make sure, particularly in the context of us doing what is largely symbolic, there is no sense that the Senate is going to act on this, and certainly no sense that the President of the United States and this administration is going to. Maybe what we should say is we are in this together.

If we are going to make a symbolic stand, the symbolic stand should be let’s pass a one House bill with only part of the protections. Let’s let the symbolic message be that we are sticking together, that when we say ‘GLBT,’ we mean it. And we should do something else. We should also make it very clear to those watching this discussion that we are not going to negotiate against ourselves. We are not going to say if we toss this element or that element off to the side, maybe we will be able to get what we need. There are some things that are immutable, some civil rights that are immutable. This is one of them.

We are going to stick together and pass an inclusive ENDA, or we are going to come back again and do it right.

A Panic Attack

November 3, 2013

I’m in my bed. I feel cold, panicky. The thought of getting up to make dinner is too much to entertain at the moment. I feel like my lungs are shutting down, like my heart will fail. It feels like I’m going to die.

I don’t want to die, and I’m sure that eventually, no matter how bad this feeling is at the moment, I’ll snap out of it, alive and well. The damage, the pain in my chest, the aches. I need to acknowledge that this starts and ends with my mind. My mind is triggering these physiological symptoms, and if I can acknowledge that, maybe I can will them away.

I page through my phone’s contact list, look at active Facebook connections and Twitter followers. Through the list of names, I don’t know if there exists anyone I could call a friend, at least in the sense that I believe it’d be appropriate to ask for help in this shaken, fragile state. Then again, if I don’t have a connection with anyone strong enough to consider a friend that would help me through a panic attack, do I really have anyone I could consider a friend in any sense?

This thought adds fuel to the pain as I feel my lungs ceasing to function, as breathing gets harder. My heart stings as the actions it’s been asked to perform strain as the resources to complete these tasks isn’t there.

The symptoms subside after a few minutes and I catch my breath. I’m sweaty, tired and in my bed.

Dan Gainor, Vice President of Business and Culture for the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog group (think of them as a bizarro world version of Media Matters), accused me of being unethical in my reporting for Rolling Stone. According to their website, Media Research Center’s “sole mission is to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media.” Welp.

In case you missed it, I reported on the efforts to repeal a California law designed to protect transgender students in grades K-12. It was first published yesterday on RollingStone.com. I interviewed several people on the topic: Matthew McReynolds of the Pacific Justice Institute (one of the groups pushing for repeal), Masen Davis of the Transgender Law Center (one of the groups defending the law), California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (author of the original legislation), and Ashton Lee (a transgender 16-year old student in California). Additionally, I put in interview requests with two more organizations pushing for the law’s repeal: National Organization for Marriage & Privacy for All Students. Neither group responded to my request.

Overall, I feel like I provided an objective look at the concerns groups like PJI, NOM and PAS have; as well as the reasons groups like TLC feel the law is important to ensure the safety of all students (including trans students). I stuck to a few pieces of primary source data:

  1. Text of the legislation itself. You can find that here.
  2. Information provided to me in interviews.
  3. Information available on the websites of these organizations.

I didn’t, for example, point to reports that the Pacific Justice Institute had falsely accused a transgender student in Colorado of harassing girls in a restroom. I didn’t point out the amount of out of state money that was being shoveled into the repeal effort by the likes of giant corporations like Jelly Belly (alas, my favorite jelly beans are now tainted!). I didn’t point to reports that signature gatherers pushing for repeal have allegedly (well, it is caught on tape…) been lying to people in order to get them to sign the petition. I didn’t point to the fact that PJI has been running ads that portray all transgender people as big, burly “men in dresses” (you stay classy). I didn’t even mention that the Pacific Justice Institute had been classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group.”

Why? Because reporting on other reports leads you down a path towards bias. I wanted to put out a straight news piece that could both highlight an important issue that has been under-reported, as well as highlight my skills as a journalist (hire me. Please? C’mon. Okay, e-mail me).

Still, this wasn’t good enough for Dan Gainor.

While I see where Dan’s coming from, there was absolutely nothing in that piece that could have been seen as being from an activist’s viewpoint. I didn’t have a chance to look at the link that demonstrated why he believes I’m an “activist” until much later, but once I saw the piece he referenced, I went from feeling disagreeable to feeling angry.

Here’s the piece he chose: Coming Out to My Parents as Trans: An E-mail Exchange.

He referenced the e-mail, something personal I decided to share with the world, as an example of me “being an activist.” Please. Read that post. The only thing I’m advocating for in that piece is my own existence and the love of my parents. That post, in and of itself, means that I should be forced to out myself to the 10 million+ monthly visitors to RollingStone.com? Really? The post only had to do with who I am as a human being. The post didn’t make mention of political affiliation, stance on legislation, support of an organization. In it, I talked about myself.

Because I’m transgender, because I’m someone who has deep knowledge of what it’s like to feel as lost and scared as many of those kids in California; that should disqualify me from reporting on trans issues? Is that honestly what Gainor believes?

I am a professional, Dan. My reporting doesn’t require an asterisk or a disclaimer (which would only be used to delegitimize what I’ve written). I don’t see cisgender journalists having to include disclaimers that they’re cisgender when dealing with issues affecting them. If a white man reported on Mitt Romney during the election last year, by this logic, shouldn’t he have had to disclose that he, like Romney, is also white and male?

There are other things I’ve written where you could say that I take stances on items. Sure. This wasn’t one of them, and shame on you, Dan, for saying it was. My identity doesn’t make me an activist. My existence doesn’t make me unfit to be a journalist.

The Growing Battle Over Transgender Student Rights in California

My debut at Rolling Stone

Read the full article here:
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics#ixzz2jQdtdi5K

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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