Op-Ed

The Mobius Strip Of Trans Elders – We’ve Always Got Someone To Learn From

To be trans is to constantly be learning from those around you. I want to talk about how we all become each other’s “elders” in the trans community.

The view from my hometown (Kingston, NY) LGBT center. Photo by Todd Martin.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the cyclical nature of transgender community support.

When I came out, I didn’t know a lot of trans folks. I knew plenty of gay folk of all varieties. We played a lot with gender presentation, whether it was for drag shows, theatre, cosplay, or simply having fun with bowties and make-up on a Wednesday night. I felt very at home in my understanding of queerness in relation to my sexuality and to the commonly understood (read: stereotypical) relationships between sexuality and gender presentation…but my knowledge of actual trans people were limited to a rousing one.

Until I started going to my local support group.

I attended a very small group hosted, as they always are, by my local LGBTQ center. Most days there were only a handful of people in attendance. The small community made there felt like a local hand-me-down – a traveling gift between the trans folk in the area. As we quietly found each other we started to come out to one another and, in turn, were subsequently bequeathed the date and times the group met. …

Gender Fiction – How RPG, Fanfiction, and Other Play Paved My Way To Coming Out

By looking at the concept of “fiction gender” and how it’s enacted, its clear that sometimes – in order to understand yourself in a real way – you have to dig yourself a little deeper into the world of fiction!

I’ve always been a nerd.

Whether I was holed up behind my computer screen, running around with a foam sword and a tunic in a field, or rolling dice in someone’s basement, as a child I happily found happiness through fantasy worlds. When I was young I always saw it as a form of escapism from my formidably rocky childhood. As an adult, I’ve been returning to these games I’ve used to play again. I find they are still a wonderful form of escapism from the horrors of our world today – but I also appreciate it as a time for me to stretch my creative muscles and practice my crafts while having some good ol’ sober fun.

It’s become clearer and clearer as I grow older and continue to re-engage with my nerdy roots that the fantasy worlds I evoked were also a play place and learning ground for my gender expression. I am not the only person who did this and grew up to recognize it. I’m not even the only person to write on this topic. Might I suggest another article on this by my dear friend M, who talks about “Roleplaying From The Closet” in their much more comprehensive take on gender in roleplaying games, “Gender At The Gaming Table”? I’d still like to offer up my experiences to the conversation, however. This is because I want to drive home the fact that playing with one’s gender expression in fictional settings is a perfect example of how complicated and winding a road it can be to understand one’s own gender identity.

Young, very closeted me – fully engrossed in character creation

The Filling And Breaking Of My Heart At The 2019 Queer Liberation March

I joined in at the Queer Liberation March this year, attending the protest instead of NYC WorldPride. My heart, at the same time, was filled to the brim and…as I walked home, broken once again.

My friend, my fiancé, and myself at the Queer Liberation March. Photo by Aidan Doyle, taken from a thoughtful and amazing article in them: “Queer Liberation March 2019” – which you can visit to read and view Doyle’s other brilliant photos of the March.

Pride month has long left us. Happily richer, the corporations have since painted over the rainbows they were sporting, leaving the queer community with the same guarded white walls we’re used to having thrown up in our face.

However, the love, power, passion, and anger of the LGBTQIA+ community lives on.

This year, my fiancé and I attended the Queer Liberation march. We both have a bit of a sordid history with Pride parades, but knew we wanted to be in New York City in commemoration of the 50thanniversary of the Stonewall Riots.  We weren’t sure how we were going to show up to honor our community’s history in a way that felt right.

…Then the Queer Liberation March popped up. Meant to be a people’s march to reclaim Pride, it was a counter-march to the Parade that sported no corporate floats or police presence.  What other way is there to honor Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, Stormé DeLarverie, Larry Kramer, the Mattachine Society, the Daughters of Bilitis, Frank Kameny, the Gay Liberation Front, Et All? What other way is there to commemorate an anti-police riot that lasted days after our rights had been violated so deeply and so unwaveringly?

There isn’t.

You march.

We met up with a friend in Bryant Park to join the March at its mid-way point. The energy just in the park itself was electric. Throngs of people dressed in both black, pink, and gold (the colors of the march) as well as bright, fantastic outfits. It felt like every single person in the park had a purpose – and in a lot of ways, perhaps that is true. Each and every person who showed up to the Queer Liberation March made a purposeful decision to attend the March instead of the Parade. Therefore, each person’s body became a powerful statement against the corporatization and pink-washing of Pride. Each person purposefully became a part of a new wave of the continued street presence of Queer protest and riots. By making the choice to be here, just a few blocks away from there, they became a part of a grand testament to the strength and resilience of queer activism. No one was there because it was “fun”. No one was there because it was something to do. No one was there because they were being paid to be there. Everybody was there because they knew they needed to be.

The Power of Yoga for the Queer Community

Entering into the world of yoga has been a life changing experience for me. I initially was looking for something that was physically challenging and mentally soothing — it became so much more. After dedicating myself to a regular practice, I began to see my body do amazing things. Working towards goals, improving my asanas, finding my edge and seeing myself go even further… I really impressed myself with what I could do. The most rewarding was beyond physical. I found the mental, spiritual, and emotional benefits of yoga become more and more noticeable everytime I stepped on the mat. As rewarding as it is, yoga is a challenge. It takes dedication, endurance, and patience. 

World Pride

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was going to NYC to watch the Pride Parade and show her support and wanted to know if anyone wanted to go with her. I jumped at the chance and asked to bring a friend. So, on …

Why Police Brutality is an LGBTQ issue

Police Brutality has been a source of violence, grief, and fear in both the LGBTQ community and communities of color. The Black Lives Matter movement has made many Americans rethink their relationships with the police. Considering the context of the Stonewall Riots, queer history adds to the discourse on police brutality, exposing the patriarchal nature of law enforcement that is a major component to these violent encounters.

Current-day queer people are still facing these issues. In the 2015 US Transgender study, it was revealed that 58 percent of respondents who interacted with police who were aware they were transgender experienced verbal harassment, misgendering, physical or sexual assault, and being forced to perform sexual acts to avoid arrest. Is it the feeling of power, the patriarchy, brutal transphobia or something else that leads to these encounters?

Pride and Fear

Photo by Pond 5 Stock Photos

I’ve tried to write this piece on Pride about a dozen times. When I first started to write it, I thought it would be easy to just describe the road to the Pride I feel and how I have become more comfortable with expressing who I am, openly and honestly.

But as I started writing, I came to a startling realization: I still struggle with the idea of Pride and that it is so much more complex than just proclaiming who I am and living as that person. Pride isn’t just a feeling, it is an action and a process that I have to work at every single day. I am confronted daily with the choice to stand up proud or to shrivel into the background, passing as a straight woman when I am neither.

500 Words on Pride

Image result for gay pride

First of all, it’s complicated. Second of all, it shouldn’t be.

This year—just like last year, and the year before, and probably several years before that—there has been at least one attempt, proliferated across social media, to host a “straight pride parade.” Most people’s first instinct is to laugh, not necessarily due to the nuanced absurdity of the situation, but because it’s just so incongruous with what we’re used to. “Straight people don’t need pride” is a common sentiment. And that’s true, but not for the reasons that everybody thinks.

Pride—at least, the LGBT pride that we celebrate every June—does not exist in a vacuum. Many people are proud of many facets of their identity: I’m proud to be a good student, proud to be a Minnesotan (seriously, it’s nice up here), proud to be a responsible person whom others can depend upon to get things done. Let’s indulgently refer to these traits as “virtues.” I’m proud of my virtues—as is everyone—because they make me a better person.

And this is where people get confused. Sexuality and gender identity are never virtues. They’re integral parts of our identity, nothing we have to work towards, nothing we actively cultivate. They exist, and that’s all. There’s no reason to be proud of being straight or of being LGBT, because neither of these are accomplishments.

Except that’s not exactly true.

Through no choice of our own, inherent and unchangeable aspects of the LGBT community’s personhood are combatted at every turn. In some parts of the world, this means that our existence is punishable by death. In the most progressive of areas, our right to marry is constantly in question. We are often unable to receive appropriate medical attention, especially if we are transgender. We are denied access to employment, to bathrooms, to interactions with young children. We are censored from TV, books, and music. We are beaten, degraded, robbed, tortured, mocked, raped, and killed simply for being ourselves.

I didn’t choose this. I don’t know a single human who would. I wish that my transfeminine friends could pass through a TSA security check without being flagged for an unexpected object between their legs. I wish that my girlfriend could wear a flannel jacket on the bus to work without being sneered and spat and cussed at. I wish that I could play online games without being called “a faggot who deserves to be lynched” due to my non cis-passing voice.

But these things happen anyway. For the foreseeable future, they will continue to do so. And we’re fighting as hard as we can, but nothing changes overnight.

In the meantime, we have pride. Pride in not only who we are, but in what we’ve done—pride in the virtue of our resilience. Each year, we aren’t using this month to flaunt our sex lives or paint everything rainbow, whatever corporations might have you think. We are using it to celebrate our survival. And since queerness comes with such a tremendous burden in today’s world, celebration of our traits and our achievements are one and the same. Meaning that our identities are, after all, virtues of a sort.

So, sure, be proud of your heterosexuality, if it really matters that much to you. I wouldn’t say I’m proud of having brown eyes—happy with it, sure, but not proud. What I am proud of is myself and all of my LGBT siblings for existing as ourselves, and loving who we love in spite of the threat it poses to us. I’m proud of us for surviving another year. Here’s to many more.

Running and Gender

Once again, I find myself staring at the online registration form, forced to choose between two genders, male or female. I stop every time I come to this question because neither option fits. But to complete my task, I have to choose. I get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I finally check the box marked “female,” my gender assigned at birth.

You see, I’m a runner. I love the feeling of toeing the line at the start of a race and challenging myself to do things with my body I didn’t think were possible five years ago. However, I always get tripped up when I register for races …

500 Words on Fanfiction

Fanfiction. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Not the semi-literary, novel-length type, either, though that stuff is definitely worth checking out. No, I’m talking about the kind that very few people want to discuss outright. A lot of it is pornographic. Most of it is queer. It ranges in quality from abysmal to pretty damn good. And, as an adult in 2019, I believe that its existence is invaluable.