Tag Archives: lgbt

Sporting a Beard while Wearing a Dress

Alok Vaid-Menon of DarkMatter

Alok Vaid-Menon of DarkMatter

At each of the four NYC pride week events I went to (Trans Day of Action, The Drag March, The Dyke March, and The Big March) I saw a smattering of what, for the lack of a better term, I will call “people with beards wearing make-up and dresses.” Some were gay men, presumably cisgender. Others were either gender non-conforming, non-binary, genderqueer, or trans. I couldn’t tell by looking.

Some wore garish or exaggerated costume, some were in classic drag, and some were dressed in an outfit that would not have attracted attention if it was worn by someone else. I mean someone who “was trying to look like a woman is expected to look”. This last category, of mixed gender expression, is the most visibly jarring. Picture a masculine haircut, a trim beard, a little black dress, and pumps – or what Alok is wearing, above.

This is not an attempt at the air-brushed androgynous look. This openly contradicts the “rules” of passing. By showing a heavy five o’clock shadow or a beard they are not hiding or obscuring that they spent a significant part of their teen/adult life with high testosterone levels. Continue reading

Marches, Guns, and Safety

Not-My-Pride

Gay Pride 2015

The last time I marched at Gay Pride in New York, I swore I was never going to march in the parade again. Some friends in Queer Nation drafted me to help carry a banner. We were right behind the Walmart rainbow float “Give me a W, give me an A, give me an L – what’s that spell?” Doesn’t spell Gay Pride to me.

Christopher Street Liberation Day March - 1977

Christopher Street Liberation Day March – 1977

I loved Gay Pride when it was still the Christopher Street Liberation Day March. It was my favorite day of the year. It was energizing being around so many people who were out. I could feel the solidarity, even though I knew that the leather men, the Trotskyites, and the lesbian-feminists wouldn’t talk to, or work with, each other during the rest of the year. There were no official contingents, no floats, no corporate sponsors. Just a mass of men and women and a few in-betweens chanting “What do we want? GAY RIGHTS!  When do we want it NOW!” Or “Ho Ho Homosexual, Anything else is ineffectual.” I’ll take liberation over pride any day.

I remember what is was like when gay men and lesbians had no rights at all. When most people thought that it was safer to be in the closet than to be out. Our rights are fragile. What is happening in Russia and Turkey could happen here; Donald Trump doesn’t have to win the election for intolerance and intimidation to take hold. Continue reading

From Philadelphia to Orlando

Vigil for Orlando at Stonewall, 6/12/16.

Vigil for Orlando at Stonewall, 6/12/16.

Sunday morning I woke up to the news of the massacre in Orlando. A gunman with an assault rifle in a gay dance club. Forty-nine dead.

I was still on a high from my two days at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference (PTHC). I spent Sunday night at a vigil on Christopher St., and then went out for dinner with friends I knew from my ACT UP days. The vigil was supposed to be comforting, but it made me angry.

I understand self-hate. I understand hating your parents. I understand hating your abusers. I understand hating your government. I don’t understand killing 49 strangers.

I’ve spent a lot of time being angry. Angry at my mother. Angry at the government. Angry at a society that doesn’t see me or value my life. Angry at the media. Angry at the politicians who did nothing to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people dying from AIDS. The same politicians who do nothing to stop anti-LGBT legislation or to restrict access to assault rifles. They used AIDS as a political weapon against the gay community, just as they are using the Orlando massacre as a political weapon agains Muslims and immigrants. I hold them as responsible for the 49 deaths as the man who pulled the trigger.  Continue reading

The Fork in the Road

I came to a fork in the road and I moved the fork.

When I started writing this blog, I stood on the border of butch and transgender, with one hiking boot firmly planted on each side. I was unable to budge. I had never truly, fully, thought of myself as a woman, but as an increasingly older boy. I had suppressed and avoided making a choice, all under the rubric of being butch.

Grant Wood’s American Gothic, 1930

The sticking point was that as masculine as I felt and looked, I didn’t picture myself as a straight middle-aged white man. I could not authentically place myself in that construct. Conversely, I couldn’t tolerate picturing myself as a middle-aged woman. The dysphoria was too raw. No one over 40 wants to picture themselves as old, but I still wanted to be a boy. I did not know who I wanted to be like when I “grew up”. I knew I was trans, but I didn’t know what words to modify it with.

I share a history with kids who were raised as girls but didn’t want to be girls. With tomboys, with kids who rebelled against their parents and teachers, who created their own internal boy lives, and who defiantly stayed true to their boy selves. Whether they identify as butch or transgender or any label on the spectrum. Whether they identify as women, men, both, or neither.

I feel a kinship with masculine women and feminine men. With people who look queer. With transgender people who don’t always pass. With people who walk down the street and go about their business with their chins up knowing that other people are staring at them. Continue reading

Imagining the Future

When I was a child I could not imagine the future. I could not picture myself as an adult. What I might look like, who I would live with, or what I would do. I drew blanks.

I knew what I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to be a girl. I didn’t want to be like my mother. I didn’t want to marry a man and have kids. I didn’t want to be a wife. I didn’t want to be a career woman in a skirt suit. I didn’t want to grow up. I didn’t want to do the long list of things that my mother did to get ready. I didn’t want to bother with pantyhose, lip stick, eye liner, foundation, perfume, hair spray, or nail polish. I didn’t know there were other options.

I survived by resisting my mother’s attempts to make me look like or act like a girl. I survived, but I did not thrive.

I thought in double-negatives. I didn’t do what I didn’t want to do. This is not the same as doing what you want to do. Whenever possible, I didn’t do the girl stuff. I dragged my feet and resisted. Sometimes I didn’t do anything at all. I stayed in my head or I read.

All of my fantasies were about being a boy. I kept the cognitive dissonance to a minimum by not fantasizing about being either a man or a woman. I didn’t want to grow up. I didn’t want to be a blank. Continue reading

Mr. Jones

“Because you know something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?” – Bob Dylan, from The Ballad of a Thin Man

Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Inn, Christopher St.

My parents managed to miss the 1960’s. We lived in the city, but we might as well have lived in Podunk. My parents were as conventional as Ward and June Cleaver in Leave It To Beaver, except that they were Jewish and lived in a small apartment.

My parents didn’t listen to Bob Dylan or The Rolling Stones. They listened to Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme sing the classic American songbook. They liked the 1950’s, when everyone knew their place and stayed there. They tried to keep up with the Joneses, but they couldn’t afford to.

Once a year my parents took me and my brother to the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit. We gawked at the hippies, listened to the folk singers, looked at the paintings, kept an eye out for the homosexuals, and had Italian Ices.

I wasn’t told much about homosexuals (as my parents referred to them) except that they lived in “The Village”, and did things that were illegal and unnatural. Any man who didn’t get married was suspect, including my mother’s cousin, who didn’t get married until he was in his late thirties. He remained suspect.

There were men on TV who wore dresses as a joke. My parents loved Milton Berle and Flip Wilson. Cross-dressing was hilarious, as long as it was clear that it was a man in a dress. A daughter who insisted on dressing like her brother was not funny. I vaguely knew about Christine Jorgensen; the most famous transsexual in the U.S.  I read about Renee Richards when she came out in 1976. It didn’t occur to me that someone could transition the other way. Continue reading

My Letter to the Casting Director

A-Boy-And-Her-DogDear Rachel,

Thanks for contacting me about being a peer mentor for the Trans* Docu-Series based on the 21 Day Myth. I’ve attached my contact information and a current photo for your casting manager. I’m also posting the casting call on my blog.

I took the liberty of web-searching your company to get more information on the project. I was surprised to see that some of the other episodes in the 21 Day Myth series consist of Move Into a Tiny House, Is Your Sex Life Too Vanilla, and Do You Want to Look Like Barbie.

I also read up on the 21 Day Myth, a theory erroneously based on “Psycho-cybernetics” published by Dr. Maxwell Maltz in 1960. Dr. Maltz states that it takes 21 days to get used to a change, e.g. moving into a new apartment or adjusting to plastic surgery results. This somehow morphed out of control into 21 days to adopt a new habit or make a major change in your life. It took me about three weeks to get used to myself in my new eyeglasses.

Transitioning is not something anyone should do lightly or under time pressure. Each person needs to determine their own timeline for transition, without a gatekeeper making them prove that they deserve access to services, hormones, or surgery. My trans journey is a set at a slow pace. From the moment that I told my therapist “I’m not a girl” it took me six months to take my next step and choose my name. I waited another six months before I asked my partner, my friends, and my co-workers to use my real (and legal) name. I don’t think I’ve made any trans decisions in a 21 day window, and wouldn’t encourage anyone else to do anything before they were ready.

I think it is important to have accurate and diverse examples of trans-masculine people in the media. I hope your project will treat the participating individuals with respect and not sensationalize their stories.

Looking forward to hearing back from you,

Jamie

Rachel’s original email to me, including the casting call, is in the Notes section. Continue reading