A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Archive for November, 2013

Why I Am Out

Guest Post by Fran Stewart

Fran surprised me with another wonderful post today in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Enjoy. ~Rosie (TDoR 2013)

via The Guerilla Angel Report

via The Guerilla Angel Report

My name’s Fran Stewart, and I’m a transgender woman. “Transgender” is an intensely personal term, and it means different things to everyone who uses it. To me, it means that I was born with a body that didn’t make sense to my mind, and now I live in a body that fits me much better into the world. You might well know a transgender person and not be aware it. We’ve learned over the years that it’s wiser to keep it to ourselves.

I am out. Though I want the world to treat me as the woman I am, to simply BE a woman, I tell my secret.

I am out because I’m a storyteller, and some of my best stories happened when I was (or thought I was) a boy. Heck, some of the real gems happened while I was transitioning! The words come easily to me.

I’m out because it’s funny! When you get your leg hair caught in an Epilady, you can either laugh or cry, and laughing is just more fun in a group.

I am out because I’m proud. Hiding my past makes me feel like I’m ashamed of it. I’m not. This is how I was born. If I’d been born in a taxi, would I be ashamed of it?

I am out because I pass for “normal,” what ever THAT’s supposed to be. When you’ve seen me on the street, you’ve seen the woman I am, not the man we all thought I was. I can tell you my secret and surprise you, and be safely able to fade back into anonymity.

I am out because I want to learn and teach. There’s more about the spectrum of gender than I can ever know, and I’ve seen more than most. I don’t like feeling ignorant, and It’s worth learning I was wrong to find what is more right. Every discussion, I get to teach and learn things.

I am out because every person I tell is one less person who might freak out when Uncle Lloyd says she’s actually Aunt Vanessa or when the new woman at work has a rather deep voice and a notable Adam’s Apple.

I am out because I still have support. I told my family—they still love me. I told my friends—they still surround me.

I am out because I have money. Unlike many transgender people, my secret never cost me my job, or my marriage, or my safety net. I had the rare insurance that covered most of my therapy and surgery.

I am out because I have a home. I’ve never been thrown out of an apartment, exiled to a back seat or an underpass.

I am out because I’m lucky—I have never been screamed at in a mall, spat on by a passerby, chased out of a bathroom. Instead, when I’ve revealed my secret I’ve had fantastic discussions and meaningful debates, even with complete strangers and clergymen.

I am out because I’m alive—nobody ever beat my skull in or buried me in a shallow grave. Nor did I drink myself to death to save the world the trouble.

I’m out because I am a minority’s minority’s minority: a lesbian, transgender woman, who is happy, strong, secure and loved. I tell my story to give hope to the many who are miserable, sick, afraid, and alone.

I am out because I’m angry. I’ve been to groups. I’ve heard all the stories I describe above, over and over. Your mothers and fathers, your children, your uncles and aunts, shamed, ostracized, brutalized, cast aside, expurgated from your history. Wonderful, kind people. Fine people, ground up even finer for want of the tiniest amount of love, the smallest benefit of a doubt, the least amount of patience.

I’m out because with all this good fortune, I feel the need to push my luck. Good things happen when I tell my story: looks of shock, laughter, hugs. More often now, the best thing: “Really? Huh.” And then a shrug as we move on to more important things. That’s the world as it should be. It costs me nothing to be an ambassador, to answer questions. To pay back all the patience and good grace that I received.

I’m out because I can see the future. The kids I meet are even less nervous about gender and its spectrum than I am. Crossplay and fluidity allow us to figure out exactly who we are. The games they play evolve too fast for terms to even keep up. The Internet is awash in children reinventing gender.

I’m out because although the world can be horribly cruel, I find that the best way I can make it better is to live like it could be otherwise. I tell my story for those who can’t, or don’t dare to, tell their own. I speak for the murdered, the suicides, the institutionalized, the browbeaten, the homeless, the sorrowing wounded I met at every support group, the fatherless, the friendless, the child-bereft, the shamed, the terrified. Because I am proof that it DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.

TDOR14memorialSM

Image by Make Me a Sammich

I am out, on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we note the HUNDREDS of transgender people brutally and violently killed this year, because…because it’s so easy to make it better. To ask “Is it sir or ma’am, please?” To say “Why should I care what bits you were born with? You’re a woman!” To say “I don’t understand, but I love you and I’ll try.” To say “You look good today.” To say “What’s your damn problem? Leave her alone!” To say “Please tell me about it, when you’re ready.”  To say “Let me teach you some basics.” To simply say “Around me, you don’t need to be afraid, or watch your words, or be on edge. Just be yourself, the best you know how.”

I’m out because so far it’s worked for me, and I’ve seen my good fortune spread. I hope that if you read this far, you will keep it going, and that one day November can become a month of thanks and family, unalloyed with sadness.

Memorializing 2014

Memorializing 2013


Also by Fran Stewart:

Lessons in Fear: Finding Balance as a Trans Woman


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Lessons in Fear: Finding Balance as a Trans Woman

Guest post by Fran Stewart

Fran is a dear friend and a great writer I was thrilled when she said she wanted to write a post for MMAS. I hope this will not be her last. ~Rosie

Image via Fotolia.com

Original image via Fotolia.com

I started my girlhood very late. I’d reached my mid-thirties by the time I realized there’d been a mistake. Up until then I’d muddled through life as the straightest, most translucently white suburban male nerd you’d expect to see. When I came out as a transgender woman, I had a lot of catching up to do.

Fear paralyzed me in the early days: will I lose my friends? My family? My wife? Would people laugh at me in the street? Would someone beat me up for being “a he-she?”

I want to talk about a different fear today, though. I wasn’t used to one of the fundamental assumptions most women make every day: I am now a target—not just for being a T or a lesbian, but simply for being female. Just as my salary automatically went down, my risk of rape, robbery, and general mishandling jumped.

My friends began to point out risks I took without thinking. I’d jog one block down an alley to my parked car instead of walking three on the street. I’d assume the friendly intent of anyone who talked to me. I’d walk whistling through dark parking lots at night. Growing up male in a small, safe town just doesn’t breed much situational awareness.

Some people, though, went deeper. “You talk to panhandlers? I’d never do that,” I heard. “You can’t just walk down a dark street. Stick to the lighted areas. Think of what might happen.” I heard a difference in the warning tone:  you’re not afraid enough.

Amidst the dizzying swirl of neoadolescent emotions, something about that message went against my grain. Not afraid enough? I was terrified to walk out of the house! I rehearsed for hours how to answer the phone with proper feminine vocal pitch. I cringed at every checkout line, waiting to hear “sir,” expecting a disapproving eyebrow raise, the look on every face that says I see you and I know what you’re up to. Now I’m not being afraid enough?

I related one story to a therapist: in a crowded public area, an aggressive panhandler stopped my wife and me in a paid parking lot. “It’s after six,” he said. “Street parking’s free! There’s a spot right over there. I’ll even hold it for you. I just ask you give me part of what the pay lot would cost.” I looked. I could see the spot he was pointing out. I agreed.

After moving the car, we gave him several dollars of the ten-dollar parking fee. “That’s it? That’s all I get after all the money I saved you? Come on! Screw you!” We apologized and walked away. My wife was upset at the risk I’d taken and my lack of awareness.

I explained my thinking: the street was busy—a plaza full of people. The man was polite initially and correct about the street parking. I felt I’d weighed the risks.

“You can’t talk to people like that. You can’t know what they’re going to do.”

“I don’t think so,” the therapist replied. “I’d never have done that. You can’t talk to people like that. You can’t know what they’re going to do. I don’t think you’re used to thinking about these things the way women do.” We discussed the event for half an hour; I left perplexed and frustrated at her flat denial of my reasoning.

I straddle a mental crevasse: for thirty-odd years I was reared as a man. I was an Eagle Scout. I had to fend off military recruiters in high school. I had no idea what lessons I should or shouldn’t have learned to be a healthy, normal woman. I looked to role models to learn those lessons. But this one still felt wrong. Was I missing something when I assessed the situation? Was risk assessment just useless for women?

As I asked more people, a divide emerged. Some friends adamantly agreed with the therapist: couldn’t I see how dumb I’d been? Some said I’d done okay, though unusual for a woman. A few said I was spot-on—women shouldn’t take shit from people for being women.

Then an activist friend, a sharp-minded New Yorker whose advice I’ve always prized, told me a story. She was at a subway stop late at night and a creep accosted her.

Without thinking twice she turned on him. “Are you serious?” she yelled. “Get the fuck out of here! What’s wrong with you?”

She chased him out of the station in a cloud of shame. “When I told my boyfriend about it he was really worried about the risks I take,” she said. “But this is me. I didn’t think about it—I just did it.”

This is the most valuable lesson she’s taught me: there are as many ways for women to look and act as there are women who’ve ever lived. Anyone who tells you there’s one right way is selling something you don’t need.

“You’re very lucky, in a way,” she said. “You’re redefining yourself. Choose what kind of woman you want to be—what bits of the old you to keep and what new stuff to bring on. Be your own kind of woman.”

So, years later, what’s the result? A new balance. I’m more aware of my surroundings in public. I’ve taken a great self-defense course. I don’t take my safety for granted. But I also feel strong in public. I consider my risks but then walk confidently. I smile at strangers. I do these things because that’s the kind of woman I am.

I feel sad to say that I’ve lived a charmed life, though I feel I have. I’m living the life everyone should have by right: my own.

franquote.png

Image by Rosie


Also by Fran Stewart:

Why I Am Out


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Texas Students Aren’t Buying “Datable” or Justin Lookadoo

What the kids are calling him these days.

What the kids are calling him these days. (image via lookadoo.com)

This is one of those stories that warms my heart and makes me proud of the state I was born in (neither of which happens often enough these days). I missed the whole thing, and I couldn’t let that happen to you.

So, in case you missed it…

Yesterday, Richardson High School in Texas hosted an assembly (sponsored by the PTA) wherein a “motivational speaker” named Justin Lookadoo presented his philosophies (ostensibly on dating violence) to the student body.* For a little background regarding his expertise as a teen dating guru, here are some “cool rules” from Lookadoo’s website, “R U Dateable.” (If you need to go vomit now, I’ll wait.)

For girls:

  • Dateable girls know how to shut up. They don’t monopolize the conversation. They don’t tell everyone everything about themselves. They save some for later. They listen more than they gab.
  • God made guys as leaders. Dateable girls get that and let him do guy things, get a door, open a ketchup bottle. They relax and let guys be guys. Which means they don’t ask him out!!!

For guys:

  • Dateable guys know they aren’t as sensitive as girls and that’s okay. They know they are stronger, more dangerous, and more adventurous and that’s okay. Dateable guys are real men who aren’t afraid to be guys.
  • Dateable guys aren’t tamed. They don’t live by the rules of the opposite sex. They fight battles, conquer lands, and stand up for the oppressed.

(If you didn’t vomit before, but need to now, feel free.)

Justin Lookadoo is the author of a book titled (not surprisingly) Dateable. Here’s a sample:

(Ok, one more vomit break. Ready, set, BLORF.)

How this guy gets speaking engagements at high schools is anyone’s guess. (Though it might have something to do with the fact that he claims to be a “Christian” motivational speaker, which carries a good deal of weight with some Texans. In fact, the school district’s initial response to criticism was to apologize for the “non-religious terminology” Lookadoo used to get his message across.) But though this can’t be his first rodeo, he was evidently unprepared for the reaction from students at RHS. The first hashtagged tweet came from Nate Beer, self-described “newsman.” (Beer writes for the school paper.)

What followed was a twitstorm of fairly epic proportions. Student reactions ranged from amused to enraged and back again. Here are just a few:

Parents were livid. At least one apparently created a Twitter account just to get onboard:

And Lookadoo wasn’t ready for the after-show Q&A. From local station WFAA:

Students circled around the speaker and hurled questions about his philosophies.

“Why did you tell girls to get out of abusive relationships instead of telling guys not to be abusive in the first place?” one student asked.

“I’ve done about 4,000 programs. That’s never happened,” Lookadoo confessed.

#lookadouche became a trending topic. News and media outlets picked up the story and are still running with it. Nate Beer, newsman, had to take a Twitter break because he was overwhelmed by the response (not all of it positive, I’m sure). And of course Twitter-at-large took up the cry, which is how the story came to my attention today.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that for a moment, when I heard about the speaker’s message, I was worried for these students; afraid that they’d actually buy into this bullshit and internalize it. And perhaps some did. But one thing is certain: Justin Lookadoo, misogynist “motivational speaker,” did motivate RHS students. Just not the way he intended.

Go, Richardson High School. You give me hope.

Updates:

  • Here’s a petition asking the superintendent of George West ISD to cancel Lookadoo’s upcoming speaking event at GWH.
  • Lookadoo has expressed confusion over the uproar, saying that his message at the assembly was not the same as the one in his “Dateable” rulebook. The Atlantic has excerpts from his speech at the assembly. I’ll let you be the judge.
  • *I originally stated that he “presented his rules for how to be “dateable.” I have since learned that part of the agreement with the PTA was that he would not state these rules, but it appears that he managed to get the message across just the same.
  • DallasNews has printed a letter from RHS Principal Charles Bruner, which apparently went home with students today.