November 20, 2013
“1 in 12 transgender people are murdered.”
I love stats as much as the next person, but until we can actually source this number, can we stop quoting it?
As today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, I’ve seen that statistic waved around quite a bit. Ask anyone, though, and they cannot point you to the true source of that number. “It was on the HRC website, but now it’s gone.” Actually, looking at a cached version of the page, no where does it say “1 in 12” or “an 8.33% chance,” or anything of the sort. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers who are just referencing one another, but no primary sources.
Others have pointed to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
I read through the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, hoping for some insight as to where this number had originated, and while I did find one of the most solidly great resources for explaining Trans 101 to someone (seriously, go check it out), I couldn’t find data that would lead me to that conclusion.
There are 313,900,00 people in the United States. Using the number provided by the Williams Institute, that would mean there are 941,700 transgender people in the United States. Using the high range of the NCTE number, there may be as many as 3,139,000 transgender people throughout the country. For the sake of argument, let’s find a spot between those two numbers: 0.65% of the population, or 2,040,350 transgender people.
If we are to believe that “1 in 12 transgender people are murdered,” we’d need to believe that over the course of our lifetime (and excluding any future trans people who have yet to be born), more than 170,000 trans people will be murdered. For reference, in 2010, there were a total of 16,259 homicides. That’s total. For all people, transgender and cisgender.
On average, there are roughly 20-25 transgender people murdered in the U.S. annually. I know this number is likely grossly underestimated, but hold on. Over the course of 80 years, roughly the span of a life, that would mean 2,000 trans people will have been murdered. Even if the true number of trans murders is ten times as high, that would only put us at 20,000 trans people murdered (which, obviously, is a lot, but certainly not the 170,000 needed to make the “1 in 12 number” work)
I’m not saying any of this data should be used as a statistic to point to. What I am saying is that it appears extremely unlikely that the “1 in 12” number is correct. Far too many trans people find themselves the victims of ant-transgender violence, but luckily for us, it’s not 1 out of every 12 of us.
November 17, 2013
I never quite know how to answer questions about “the transgender community.” To me, the Transgender Community™ is a product of the greater LGBT-industrial complex, just s neat way to classify those of us on the island of misfit toys. Trans individuals are just as diverse and complex as any other grouping of people.
Liberal, conservative; affluent, poor; we’re all individuals. While we may have a common interest, a common goal policy-wise… Actually, that’s not even true. I recently wrote a post about the need for public accommodation protections for trans individuals. To my surprise, a trans person used the comments section of my piece to advocate against these types of protections. Even common threads, similarities — these in themselves do not a community make.
I don’t feel a part of any sort of community. I don’t feel as though I belong to anything. I feel just as lost as anyone else, and I don’t know that it’s fair to pretend there’s this “community,” this bond that connects us. I don’t feel this bond. I wish I did. I wish I did feel the existence of a true community, but I don’t. Or, at very least, I don’t feel one that I’m a part of or welcome in.
November 13, 2013
I recently read about Alissah Brooks, a transgender woman from Atlanta, Georgia, and her recent run-in with a bouncer who denied her entry to a club on the basis of her gender identity. For those who haven’t yet read this story, after attending a GLAAD event in Atlanta, Brooks and a few friends stopped at Don Pollo Bar & Grill. Brooks was denied entry to the bar after a bouncer asked to see her ID. Her friends then explained Brooks’ transgender status to an employee of the club, saying they believed Brooks was denied entry on account of her status as a trans woman. The employee’s response? “What’s wrong with that? We can do that — we have the right to be selective. We can do that. We’re a private property.”
Actually, they can’t. This would appear to violate a city ordinance put in place to protect LGBT individuals.
I wish I could say this was the first time something like this has happened to a transgender woman, but that would be a lie. In fact, it was only a few months ago that one of my friends and I were denied entry to a bar in Chicago. On July 19th, after going to a concert on Chicago’s north side, my friend and I decided to end the night by stopping at a bar for a drink. As most bars were jam-packed, we kept walking until we found one with a little more breathing room. That’s when we stumbled upon Big City Tap, a bar that lives up to its nickname of “Big Shitty Tap.”
We approached the door. The bouncer eyed us suspiciously. He held up his hand as if to say, “IDs, please,” and we went ahead, giving him our drivers licenses. He looks at mine, then up at my face; back down at the card, up at my face. He hands me my license, waving me into the nearly-empty bar. My friend, wearing a cute dress that went down to her knees, covered her shoulders, and showed minimal cleavage, handed her license to the bouncer. Immediately, he calls for me to come back out of the bar. I heard the tail end of the conversation between my friend and the bouncer. “Wait, what?” she asked, confused by the situation. “Dress code. That’s all I’m saying,” he replied, waving us away.
We walked away from the bar, not necessarily in the mood to get into an argument over the right to purchase an overpriced beer and sit in a bar blasting shitty music. Still, though, it stung. I felt like a freak; I felt subhuman. There was no way to interpret “dress code” as anything other than another way of saying, “stay out, tr*nnies.” After all, it wasn’t until the bouncer saw that my friend’s drivers license didn’t match his own initial read of her gender that he shooed us away. Had this legitimately been about some sort of dress code, why did he look at the license in the first place? The people who were in the bar? Girls in low-cut shirts that bared their midriffs, guys in t-shirts and jeans, a man in cargo shorts with flip flops, a girl in a short skirt who wasn’t wearing shoes at this point in the evening. Clearly, there was no dress code in place.
We made our way to a different bar, had a drink, and called it a night. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened at Big City Tap. It seemed as though, from an attire-based point of view, anyone could enter the bar so long as the sex listed on their drivers license matched their outward gender presentation.
In what other circumstance would it be okay to discriminate against someone like this? To deny someone access to public accommodations? “No blacks allowed.” “Men only.” “Must have blue eyes and blond hair to enter.” “Must be taller than 6’ to drink here.” “No disabled welcome.” In each of these situations, there’d be a thunderous outcry against the business. This isn’t to say that there aren’t places that do discriminate against people on the basis of race, sex, appearance, and so on; but rather that it’s seen as less culturally acceptable. For transgender people, this kind of treatment is almost expected.
One of my greatest fears is that I’ll find myself in the hospital for some reason, and just left to die. Or that I’ll be in a car crash and upon realizing I’m transgender, being left on the side of the road by paramedics. You might think I’m being paranoid, but these fears are more rational than one would think.
In 2010, Erin Vaught, a transgender woman, checked into a Muncie, Indiana Emergency Room after she started coughing up blood. In spite of her ID, which listed her as female, she was entered into the hospital system as a male (this part has actually already happened to me). She was then sent to an exam room where she was referred to as a “he-she,” “transvestite,” and an “it” by hospital staff. There she waited for two hours without treatment until a doctor showed up, only to tell her that they would not be treating her on account of her “condition.” She was then sent home.
To be clear, by “condition,” these doctors were not referring to whatever it was that led to her coughing up blood. Rather, they were stating that they would not treat her on account of her transgender status. Even though the two issues were entirely separate, the doctor refused her service on account of her gender identity.
Along with examples of discrimination against transgender people in employment, housing, and public accommodations, it’s become the norm to expect the worst and hope for the best. It’s not right, though. It’s not right at all. We shouldn’t have to.
This is why I cringe anytime I hear someone say that adding legal protections for transgender individuals is giving us a “special right” or a “special treatment.” There’s nothing special about wanting to be treated with dignity and respect, whether it’s stopping at a bar for a drink or seeking medical treatment.
So, before anyone jumps in and says “why don’t you just go to a different bar?” I want to make one thing clear: this isn’t about the bar. This isn’t about a single event. This is about the world piling on us until we can’t take it anymore.
November 11, 2013
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.
One 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).
Executive at Conservative Media Watchdog Group Accuses Me of Bias for Not Outing Myself as Transgender
November 2, 2013
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:
- Text of the legislation itself. You can find that here.
- Information provided to me in interviews.
- 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.
— Dan Gainor (@dangainor) November 1, 2013
@MissParkerMarie I think we’d agree that an activist from an aggrieved minority group writing on that issue should at least merit a tagline.
— Dan Gainor (@dangainor) November 1, 2013
@MissParkerMarie You have already done so. You are an activist. You can’t then step back and pretend to be a neutral journo on this.
— Dan Gainor (@dangainor) November 1, 2013
— Dan Gainor (@dangainor) November 1, 2013
— Dan Gainor (@dangainor) November 1, 2013
— Dan Gainor (@dangainor) November 1, 2013
— Dan Gainor (@dangainor) November 1, 2013
— Dan Gainor (@dangainor) November 2, 2013
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.
November 1, 2013
My debut at Rolling Stone
Read the full article here:
October 30, 2013
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?
My 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.
October 26, 2013
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:
NAME: SAMANTHA ALICE THOMPSON
ADDRESS: 1472 W. CEDAR RD., GREENVILLE, PA
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!?”
October 25, 2013
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.
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.