Tag Archives: lgbt

We Interrupt This Program

Jamie, demonstrating outside Trump's hotel

Jamie, demonstrating outside Trump’s hotel.

After writing once a week for four years. I’ve finally decided is time to switch things up and stop posting on schedule and only post when I feel like it. I like blogging. I like the community and the intimacy. I like reading about other people’s lives, especially people who are trying to figure out how to live authentically without blowing the rest of their lives to smithereens. But blogging takes a lot of time, and at this moment in history I want to focus on political activism and building community. I don’t want to resent how much time I’m spending writing.

Four years ago, when I started this blog, I had just legally changed my name and accepted that I was trans. I was struggling to hold onto my relationship with Donna. I had read enough books to practically get a master’s degree in queer and transgender studies, but I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do about my gender identity and gender expression. I set it up as a false dichotomy; stay butch or transition to trans man. It took me a while to see that although I always wanted to be a boy, I didn’t necessarily want to be a man. That there was a lot of space, and a lot of room for experimentation, in between butch and trans man. I am still exploring that space.

I haven’t run out of ideas for blog posts. Today, I was thinking about letting go of the self-imposed pressure to decide about testosterone (not making a decision is still making a decision) and my fear that not going on testosterone means that I’m not really trans. Another post I want to write is about setting high expectations for myself and dealing with my disappointment when I can’t live up to them. I also want to write about what it is like to do political work with LGBTQ folk I know from ACT UP 25 years ago (and anti-war work 15 years ago) and their difficulty accepting that I am in a different place now than I was then (including getting my name right!).

Donna protesting outside Trump's hotel.

Donna protesting outside Trump’s hotel.

Donna and I are also working together this time, along with our friend Alexis. It is great to be protesting with friends. The political group we are working with is Rise & Resist. It is so new that the website isn’t up, and you don’t get anything when you Google it. The Facebook page for Rise & Resist is here. It isn’t an LGBTQ group, but there are a lot of LGBTQ activists in it (the B and the T part of the acronym have been pretty quiet). There are a handful of people who look like they are trans (I know, I shouldn’t judge based on how people look) and at least two other people who introduced themselves with they pronouns. I’m hoping to chat them up so we can support each other.

It is hard to know what to do to fight Trump/Pence and the Republican agenda. It is easy to get frustrated and sink into despair. It is easy for us to turn on each other. I’ve been in groups that have self-imploded, and I’m hoping that Rise & Resist can work through those problems. Stay tuned.

Are You Going To The Women’s March?

i-cant-believeFor me, that is an easier question to answer than, “Are you a woman?” or “What are you going as?”

Yes. Donna and I will be going to the NYC Women’s March on January 21, a satellite of the “big one” in Washington, D.C. Right now, neither Donna nor I can handle the logistics of a 5 A.M. bus trip down to Washington, the cold, figuring out where to pee, finding a place to warm up, get something to eat, and finding someone to walk and feed Gracie while we are away. We can, however, roll out of bed and get to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza by 11AM. If it is too cold, if Donna gets too tired, if we need to find a bathroom, or if we have to drop out of the march, we will manage to find our way safely home by public transportation. In time for dinner.

I looked at the web site for the Women’s March on Washington (and the satellite marches in 200 other cities) to double-check that it was clearly open to all regardless of gender and gender identity. It is, but there is no list of demands, or issues, except for a mission statement which condemns the hateful rhetoric of the election, and reminds us that “women’s rights are human rights” and that “we will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society”.

Nothing about the right-wing attack on reproductive rights, abortion, and health care. Nothing about voting rights, poverty, and mass incarceration. Nothing about rape culture, misogyny, homophobia, or transphobia. Nothing to scare anyone away. Nothing for anyone to disagree with.

I have a complicated relationship to some traditional “women’s issues”. I never wanted to have a family (marriage or children). I was never attracted to men, or dated a man, or slept with a man, tried to get birth control, or tried to get pregnant. I was never afraid of getting pregnant or needing an abortion. While I was, and still am, afraid of getting mugged or bashed by men – I was not consciously afraid of being raped. I haven’t been groped on the subway or cat-called since I was in high school. This puts me in a very small minority; almost all of my friends actively use or used contraception, have kids, and/or had abortions (legal and illegal). Continue reading

What Would Grace Paley Do?

Women from the Greenwich Village Peace Center, 1968. Grace is in the middle.

Women from the Greenwich Village Peace Center, 1968. Grace is in the middle.

I’ve only had a few positive role models in my life. Most of my role models were negative role models. I didn’t want to be like my mother. I didn’t want to be like my grandmother. It wasn’t only a lack of positive female role models. Even though I wanted to be a boy, I didn’t want to be like my brother or my father. There were so many people I didn’t want to be like.

I saw, and experienced, their character flaws. Short tempered. Manipulative. Critical. Stingy. Greedy. Arbitrary. Narcissistic. Powerless. Resentful. I swore that when I grew up I would do better. I would not repeat their mistakes.

My early exposure to teachers, other kid’s parents, school psychologists, and librarians did not improve my attitude towards adults. I thought adults were boring, tedious, and rigid. They all insisted that I act like a girl.

It wasn’t until I came out, and started doing political work, that I met older adults whom I could relate to. They were non-conformists. I saw their flaws, but I also saw their strengths. I might not want to be just like them, but I definitely wanted to pick and choose from some of their character traits.

I admired the serious calm anger of the pacifists at demonstrations. How they would walk right up to a line of riot police and then sit down, without flinching, without showing fear. At demonstrations they took to the streets and blocked traffic as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I admired their clarity and how their actions were consistent with their beliefs. I studied the history of non-violence. I read Gandhi, Dr. King, and Barbara Demming. Some of it rubbed off on me. Continue reading

The Middle Aged They

My name is Jamie and my pronouns are they/them. This sentence does not come out of my mouth easily. I get flustered when I’m asked which pronouns I use. I don’t like being referred to as she/her. I never have and I never will. In the past two years I’ve made some half-assed attempts to request they/them pronouns, but then I backed off. I never interrupted the conversation to tell someone they made a mistake. This week I have to get over it. Superman had a mental block against Kryptonite. I’ve got a mental block against changing my pronouns.

dont-assume-my-pronounsThey/them still sounds forced and artificial to me, but it goes with Jamie. Both are neutral, both simultaneously raise and answer questions. Both are chosen by me, not given to me at birth. Maybe I forgot how hard it was to change my name, but shifting pronouns seems harder.

I regularly attend a transmasculine support group at The Center. Each meeting starts with a go round of names and PGPs (preferred gender pronouns). The assumption is that everyone knows what they want to go by. Most use he/him, some use they/them, and no one admits they use she/her. Augie says “My name is Augie and my pronouns are Augie.” I’m stuck in a rut saying that I’m Jamie and I am pronoun challenged. Continue reading

Getting Over The Shock

trump-shockI thought I was mentally prepared for a Trump victory, but I was wrong. I knew the odds. I knew he had a chance. I’m glad he didn’t win by a landslide. I’m glad he didn’t win the popular vote. I can’t believe he won the election.

I’m trying not to pin the blame on anyone. I don’t find comfort in saying if only Bernie Sanders had run, or if only James Comey hadn’t sent the letter about the emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer. I have a deep anger at everyone who voted for Trump, everyone who stayed home, and all the people who tell me “Don’t worry it won’t be as bad as you think.”

I can’t gauge how bad it will be. It looks like all the worst aspects of American history wrapped up in one administration. I look at Pence, Giuliani, Bannon, and Gingrich and I think about the Comstock Laws, the Palmer Raids, Executive Order 9066, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, COINTELPRO (FBI Counter Intelligence Program), and the Patriot Act. I think about the Justice Department ignoring burning crosses and lynchings, ignoring the police shooting at “rioters”, ignoring the murder of trans women.

There is a good chance that Trump’s appointees will define being butch, queer, transgender, or gender non-conforming as “un-American”. Deviant. Degenerate. Perverted. It happened in Russia under Putin. It could happen here. I am expecting to hear a lot more right-wing Christian propaganda. I am ready to fight against FADA (First Amendment Defense Act). Continue reading

Reasons To Be Cheerful

transgender-for-hillaryI’m writing this post right before the election. I’m trying to stay optimistic, but I just want it to be over. No one I know will admit to voting for Trump. I’m sure some of them are lying to me. Part of Making America Great Again is making America straight (and cisgender) again. It will never happen in New York, no matter who wins, but there will be a backlash in the conservative states.

I’m voting for Hillary, without much enthusiasm. I’d rather be voting for Bernie, or for Elizabeth Warren, or for Obama. I’m a little embarrassed to be lumped in with Hillary’s “what a great moment for women” supporters, but I’m in, fingers crossed. I am repulsed by Trump, and by the angry straight white guys, contorted with hate, who attend Trump rallies. I do not want to be like them. It rattles my sense of my own masculinity that so many men support Trump.

Most days I feel like I’m OK the way I am, in the middle, masculine enough. Then I get Ma’am’d. Or Donna and I are called “Ladies”. Then I think about the unopened box of testosterone gel in my dresser drawer.

Some days I feel that I am in a gender stalemate. Not ready to move forward, unwilling to stay in the same place, needing to do something else, but I don’t know exactly what. I don’t want to push myself to change pronouns or take hormones just to get some traction. I’d like those decisions to come organically, not out of frustration or as a reaction to being Ma’am’d.

To buoy (or boy) my spirits I made a list to remind myself how much things have changed in the five years since I first started to think about being trans. Despite the negativity, I’ve got reasons to be cheerful. Here is the list: Continue reading

The Dissonance of Referring To Myself As Ms.

pink-pronounsLast week my boss asked if I was willing to extend my part-time consulting contract for one more year. He very nicely told me how grateful he was that I had come back to work in the subway schedules department, and how I had provided invaluable assistance to the staff by trouble shooting their software problems  (the important, but unofficial, part of my old job). After I agreed to one more year, he told me that he was very busy and asked me to write the memorandum to request that the state Board of Ethics grant me another waiver so that I could continue working.

In theory, writing the memo was no big deal. One paragraph stating why they hired me back in the first place, the second paragraph with a flowery description of what I’ve done for the department, the third paragraph outlining what they expect me to do in the next year (oversee the installation of a new proprietary software program), and the fourth paragraph closing with why it is important that the contract be extended. Standard bureaucratic drivel.

When I was in charge of the department, I wrote a hundred similar memo’s to HR to hire and promote managers. The memos were slightly formal and stilted.

I got hung up on the first sentence. The one that started with “The purpose of this memorandum is to request that Ms. Jamie Ray’s Contingent Temporary Employee contract be extended for an additional year.” Four paragraphs of writing about myself in the third person with Ms. and she used collectively eleven times. It was a strong and convincing memo, but it sounded off-key to me. I’m not that person any longer. I don’t think of myself as she or her or Ms. Continue reading