#Me Too

First, what is #MeToo? It was a recent viral campaign started by Tarana Burke to create awareness about sexual assault, by encouraging victims of sexual assault (mainly black women and other WOC) to come forward with their stories and say, this happened to “me too”.

I believe that conversations about sexual assault should typically center women. Women are the ones predominantly effected by sexual assault. That being said, there’s a few grievances I have about hashtag, #MeToo. For one thing, people seem to be angrier at me, a man, for using it than they are about actual sexual assault. Angrier at me, a survivor of sexual assault, for using a hashtag than the fact that I was assaulted in the first place. The reason being that they believe men are appropriating the hashtag from women, like white people and “All lives matter” appropriate Black Lives Matter from black people. Here is where I disagree. White people appropraiting Black Lives Matter is white people stealing something from black people, appropriating something that didn’t belong to them and trying to silence POC. Stealing something that belonged to black people and appropriating it. That much is absolutely true, but in the case for #MeToo, men can’t steal a hashtag away from women, if that hashtag never belonged to women in the first place. Just ask the creator of the hashtag herself:

(credit to Bryan Beretta)

Did you hear that folks? A movement is not a movement if it rejects the most marginalized.

My use of the hashtag was not an attempt to silence women. Again, the hashtag was created for survivors of sexual assault to come forward and say, me too. Regardless of the fact that I’m a man, I lived the first 15 years of my life presenting as my assigned gender at birth: female. %75 of the entirety of my life, my entire childhood and teenage years, were lived as female. Just because I came out as transgender five years ago doesn’t suddenly nullify and negate my lived experiences as a feminine presenting person. Many people agree with me, saying that it’s okay for queer folks to use the hashtag along with women, just not straight cisgender men.

To me, that sounds somewhat reasonable. Straight cisgender men are the predominate perpetrators of sexual assault. However, in order to justify my use of the hashtag I have to out myself as transgender to strangers on the internet in order to validate my experience with sexual assault. Additionally, cis gay men would also have to out themselves as gay. Since coming out, nobody really seems to care about my assault. Not to sound like I’m looking for sympathy, but up until I came out of the closet, it was something that was taken seriously. The same women who would have supported me a few years ago now tell me “Boo hoo, men are always playing the victim. Always silencing women and making everything about them. Stop playing the victim.” One day I’m a victim of male violence and sexual assault, and the next day I’m not. It’s invalidating, isolating, and makes me feel guilty for even acknowledging my assault.

This is not what feminism is. Shaming survivors for being the wrong gender, forcing transmasculine people to out themselves in order for their assaults to be validated, and getting all up in arms about a hashtag that will be forgotten about in three months? A hashtag that was created specifically for survivors, regardless of gender?

The 2015 US Trans Survey found that 51% of transgender men and 58% non-binary AFAB people are survivors. Let that sink in for a minute. Over half of the population of transmasculine people are survivors of sexual assault. We are better than this. People are more important than hashtags.

Advertisements

Halloween Do’s and Don’t’s: Men Dressing Up as Women

As Halloween approaches this year, people are asking, is it transphobic or misogynistic for men to dress as women for Halloween? Well, yes and no. It all depends on how it’s done. Some closeted trans women and transfeminine people(who are not men) use Halloween as an opportunity to feel like their authentic selves, as it’s the one time they can dress in feminine clothing without question. Halloween is also the one day a year that men, straight and gay alike, are free to explore their gender expression in public without ridicule. However, this is typically not the case for straight men, who most often dress as women for Halloween as a joke. So, lets go over some costumes and whether or not they make a good choice for Halloween this year.

Costume: Woman. Just a woman. Verdict: No

“Woman” is not a costume. Just like “Black person” or “Mexican” are not costumes, neither is “woman”. Not only is it uncreatuve, but by dressing as a woman as a gag you’re insinuating that there’s something funny or shameful about being a woman, or being a man who dresses like one. It’s misogynistic. There’s nothing particularly funny or original about being a man wearing a dress and terrible wig on Halloween, and men should be encouraged to wear what they want, even traditionally feminine clothing, the other 364 days a year without being laughed at.

Costume: Drag. A drag queen. Verdict: Maybe

Dressing in drag is a queer tradition. If you want to dress as your favorite queen, Bianca Del Rio, Adore Delano, or your own drag persona, go for it. As long as you’re not dressing as “generic drag queen tr*nny” as a joke, and actually dressing in drag.

Costume: Wonder Woman, Catwoman, etc. Verdict: Yes

A lot of men are fans of female super heroes or female television characters. If it’s socially acceptable for women to cosplay as their favorite male characters, then men people should be allowed to cosplay as their favorite female/femme characters. If you’re a huge fan of Wonder Woman, then be Wonder Woman!

Costume: Caitlyn Jenner, tr*nny granny, etc Verdict: No

I wish I didn’t have to explain this, but these costumes are extremely transphobic. Dressing as a transwoman or as a “tr*nny” is deliberately mocking transgender people. It’s offensive, and just shouldn’t be done.

Most of all, just use common sense. Ask yourself why you want to dress as a woman for Halloween. Is it because you want to explore your gender expression, cosplay as your favorite character, or show off your drag skills? Or is it to make your friends laugh and to mock and ridicule transgender women and transfeminine people?

6 Things That Make College Feel Like a Dystopian Novel

In literature, a dystopia is a futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. In short, college life. Here are just some of the ways a university campus is a lot like a dystopia.

The bizarre way rape and suicide are handled

When I found this box of nerds in a bag of Halloween candy given to me by the RA of my apartment complex, I felt like I had swallowed the red pill (no, not that red pill), and was suddenly unplugged from the matrix. I’m serious. As a survivor of a suicide attempt, I can honestly say this cute and flippant distribution of the National Suicide Hotline on the front of a box of candy might just be the most bizarre tone-deaf gesture I’ve ever witnessed. Factoring in the high rate of suicide among college students, this goody bag has Ray Bradbury rolling in his grave. And speaking of high rates among college students, I can’t help but be reminded of the anti-rape PSAs plastered all around my apartment complex that depict Disney characters like Elsa and Anna explaining rape and domestic abuse. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Having cartoon characters like SpongeBob explain the dangers of date rape drugs is like a Nancy Reagan fever dream. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. I think maybe, because of the environment, culture, and high rate of which these things occur, that college students are now desensitized to topics like rape and suicide.

Parking ticket catch-22

Parking on campus is atrocious. Like on most college campuses, finding a spot is nearly impossible, and your only hope of finding one is if you get there two hours before class starts, and pray to the almighty Parking Spot Gods, then maybe, just maybe, you’ll get lucky. Parking anywhere on campus requires a parking permit. Without one, you’ll be ticketed. But here’s the thing, the only way to avoid parking tickets is to not get a permit to park at all. If that sounds counterintuitive, just hear me out. Getting the permit that allows you to park on campus without getting a ticket requires you to register your car with Campus Police. If you do happen to get a ticket, your license plate is in their system and you will have to pay that ticket before you’re allowed to graduate. But what about a non-student who parks on campus without a permit? Well, they get a ticket, too, except….campus police are not real police and they would have no legal obligation to pay that ticket. So in a bizarre twist of fate, I could, as a student, not register my car with the university. Then, I could park wherever I want, whenever I want, in faculty spots, 10-minute parking, loading and unloading zones, etc. and rack up parking tickets in the process, that I never actually have to pay. Sure, I would get fewer tickets if I had a parking permit, but getting a ton of tickets that I never have to pay is a lot better than getting a few tickets that I actually do have to pay. So, parking “legally” = paying for expensive tickets, and parking “illegally” = never paying for tickets. The irony is endless.

Selling Plasma

Within walking distance of my university is a huge plasma bank that also happens to advertise in the campus newspaper, and I don’t think that it’s a coincidence. College students are notoriously broke and hungry, with student loans, overpriced books, and tuition to pay for. “Never fear!”, Mr. Plasma Bank says, “College doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Just your blood! For only a few pints of that life-sustaining liquid, you too can afford access to knowledge and a future.” I can’t be the only one who thinks donating your blood in order to pay for education, or to be able to afford to eat every day, is a sign that capitalism isn’t working. On the other hand, after only a mere five donations I’ll finally be able to get that history textbook I’ve been putting off buying all semester.

The student health clinic is not an actual clinic

If anything, the health clinic is a glorified Band-Aid dispenser. There are no doctors on hand and the staff is mostly nursing students. The clinic doesn’t treat or diagnose any illness, or write any prescriptions, but, if you need a band-aid or a cough drop, this completely pointless office is the place for you. This yearly renovated, tuition sucking, first-aid station will bury you waist deep in confusing unnecessary paperwork, which all has to be filled out before you can be told that you’ll have to go to a real clinic to be helped.

Campus Police

If you thought the clinic was useless and bureaucratic, campus “police” have them beat ten fold. Just like the fire-starting firemen of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, campus police commit more crimes then they stop. Their job is to write tickets and make revenue for the university, and because of that, they’re untouchable. Any time campus police are called, they show up and make an even bigger mess. They’re arrogant, lazy, incompetent, and couldn’t care less about students. Anyone who calls them for help inevitably ends up worse than they would have been if they hadn’t bothered to call at all. Ironically, non-students have more rights and freedoms than students when it comes to being on campus. Rape, assault, stalking, harassment, and trespassing are all okay, but park in the 10-minute parking spot for 11 minutes and you can count on the noble, honorable, campus police to be there for you.

Financial Aid

Navigating the maze of financial aid seems to be intentionally difficult. There are ten different offices that all do the same thing. Trying to figure out if one of your scholarships went through could take an entire day of just being bounced from one office to another, and another, and another, waiting in lines, until you inevitably get sent back to the office you started at. If you think I’m exaggerating, it took me three hours and visiting five different offices just to add another class to my schedule. How the university stays open with how inefficiently it runs. Kafkaesque in proportion, the financial aid office(s) will likely make me lose my mind before the year is over.

Feminist Lens Literature: On Humbert Humbert and the Modern Day Rapist

To pick apart the fictional character Humbert Humbert, is in no way a reflection of my views of the author, Vladimir Nabokov, who I hold in very high regard as one of my favorite authors and one of the greatest writers of all time.

Before we dive in, let’s address some criticism of the book.

A common criticism of Nabokov’s “Lolita” is that with it Nabokov, as a male author, is writing the narrative for Lolita, and therefore stealing it. I agree that women’s stories being told for them by men is a problematic symptom of a patriarchal society. Men typically control the narrative, and women are viewed predominantly through a male gaze. That much is very true. However, this is not what Nabokov is doing through “Lolita”. It is not the author, Nabokov, that is stealing Lolita’s narrative, but the protagonist, Humbert Humbert. H.H. as the unreliable narrator controls Lolita in every sense of the word. He controls her life, her actions, her voice, and her narrative. It’s not Nabokov that is telling Lolita’s story for her, but H.H. This is important because despite the title, “Lolita”, the book is really about H.H.’s story, and the story he chooses to tell is about the “love of his life”, Lolita.

If the book had opened with something along the lines of, “My name is Dolores Haze(Lolita), and this is the story of my life of being abused by this man, Humbert Humbert.” then I would be more inclined to say, yes, Nabokov is telling a woman’s story, he’s stealing a (fictional) victim’s narrative. Nabokov, as a man, certainly would be hard pressed to write the story of an abused girl through her own eyes, but he didn’t. He wrote about a sick man and the way a sick man viewed his Lolita. If Lolita had been the narrator or protagonist, then I would agree with this criticism, but with H.H. as the narrator, it’s very clear to the reader all of the ways that Lolita’s life story is being twisted by H.H.’s delusional and unreliable narration. Without it, the book itself would be more or less pointless to write. Arguably, Dolores Haze herself is not even the same person as the Lolita that H.H. has created in his head, and I don’t think that’s accidental. H.H. creating a new name for Lolita is a purposeful separation between the normal 12 year old girl Dolores, and the flirtatious nymphet “Lolita”. The title of the book, “Lolita” makes it perfectly clear that we’re reading about Lolita through the eyes of H.H. and are not viewing her in the way she truly is. But, again, the story of “Lolita” is really the story of H.H., not of Lolita herself.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into some ways modern day rapists and pedophiles are a lot like Humbert Humbert. Sadly, despite being written over 50 years ago, Humbert’s justifications are identical to those used by child abusers today.

Shifting the blame

The “nymphet” motif is one that appears throughout the book. A nymphet, as described by H.H., is a word he uses to describe prepubescent girls he finds attractive, who possess “elusive, shifty, soul-shattering, insidious charm”. Calling Lolita a nymphet is one of the ways H.H. shifts the blame onto her.

Lolita is described as flirtatious, and our paranoid and delusional narrator describes her as flirting with almost every man she comes across, which most likely is not actually true, and is merely H.H.’s jealousy and paranoia. However, by claiming that the young girl is flirtatious, he’s blaming her for her behavior and justifying his own attraction to her. He is able to ease his guilt about having sex with Lolita by reminding himself that Lolita has experimented with boys her own age and that he “wouldn’t even be her first”.

Blaming rape victims for acting provocatively or flirtatious is a common defense used today by rapists. Children cannot seduce grown men, but here we see H.H. using that as his defense, something pedophiles today still do. I.e. “She came onto me first, it isn’t my fault.”

Love

“It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight”

“All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other…”

“I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not be forever Lolita.”

“We loved each other with a premature love, marked by a fierceness that so often destroys adult lives.”

And so on.

Love is another excuse used by pedophiles. Their reasoning is that they believe they are not “abusing” children, they’re “loving” the children. It’s not “abuse”, it’s “love”. In the book, H.H. believes that he and Lolita are in love. Despite his acknowledgement and guilt over destroying Lolita’s childhood, his justification for it is that he’s in love with her, obsessed with her, and can’t help it. He tries to manipulate the reader into believing he’s blinded by love and couldn’t see the real harm he caused Lolita. (Until the end of the book that is.)

Power

A common strategy pedophiles use to get close to their victims is to befriend their victim’s parents, particularly single parents, to gain access to their children. Some become step or foster parents for this reason. This is exactly what Humbert Humbert does. He marries his former landlady, Charlotte, Lolita’s mother, and explicitly states that his sole reason for doing so is to have access to Lolita. Humbert becomes Lolita’s stepfather, and when Lolita’s mother is killed by a reckless driver, he takes off with Lolita, pretending to be her father. As Lolita’s “father” he controls everything she does, what friends she has, how much freedom she has, etc. This role of a parent only gives him more power over Lolita.

Grooming

Like real life pedophiles, Humbert spends a lot of time grooming Lolita. He buys her gifts, treats, and even gives her money. He spent a large amount of time leading up to the act of molesting Lolita living in her home with her and her mother and became a familiar friendly face that Lolita could seemingly trust. Child grooming is the act of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, and sometimes the family, to lower the child’s inhibitions with the object of sexual abuse.

Vladimir Nabokov’s Complicated Relationship With Homosexuality

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”

With those words, Russian American Novelist Vladimir Nabokov opens his controversial 1955 novel, “Lolita”. “Lolita” is an American Classic, regarded as one of the greatest works of the 20th century, and with it, Nabokov did the impossible. With his incredibly skilled writing and stunning prose, Nabokov manipulated readers into sympathizing with a pedophile. Just as the protagonist, Humbert Humbert, manipulates Lolita, a young girl, so the readers are manipulated themselves.

All of this to say, Nabokov was never one to shy away from immoral or illegal sexual acts in his writing. Whether it be rape and pedophillia in “Lolita”, or the incestuous relationship between brother and sister in his novel, “Ada or Ardor: A Familiy Chronicle”, Nabokov dives head first into the controversial, the taboo, and the sinful.

So, why then, does Nabokov tip-toe around the subject of homosexuality? This isn’t to say that Nabokov never wrote about homosexuality, in fact, the majority of his 17 novels contain gay characters. As a writer, Nabokov was fascinated by homosexuality, and couldn’t help but write mockingly two-dimensional and stereotypical gay characters such as the narcissistic narrator Charles Kinbote in “Pale Fire”, Gaston Godwin, Humbert Humbert’s neighbor in “Lolita”, and more minor characters such as the giggling effeminate ballet dancers in “Mary”. He wrote these characters this way for a reason, and that reason being that Nabokov was a confirmed homophobe who was disgusted with homosexuality.

Despite all of the appalling acts his other protagonists have committed: rape, incest, and pedophilia, Nabokov was still able to write them as well-written, multi-dimensional, complex characters, in novels centered around these acts. But homosexuality is where Nabokov draws the line? One could very well wonder, that maybe, perhaps out of rape, incest, pedophilia, and homosexuality, the latter disgusted Nabokov the most.

However, my interpretation of Lolita (as well as the most widely accepted interpretation) was not that it glorified or condoned pedophilia at all. Humbert Humbert, as well-written a character as he is, aside from being a pedophile, was also a mentally unstable, delusional, paranoid, murderer. Though the readers are made to feel sympathetic for H.H., Nabokov’s portrayal of him made it very clear: he was a monster. Whether or not Nabokov was as disgusted by pedophilia as he was by homosexuality, I can’t say for certain, but his disgust for pedophilia is still apparent.

To be fair, Nabokov’s “Pale Fire” is considered to be one of his greatest works, the narrator of which, Charles Kinbote, happens to be gay. Out of all the gay characters written by Nabokov, Charles Kinbote, though egomaniacal and unreliable, is certainly the most well-portrayed and well-written. But the complexities of Nabokov’s relationship with homosexuality, in his work and in his life, only increase.

Unknown to many, Nabokov had a younger brother, Sergei Nabokov, who was gay. While Vladimir had a happy childhood, Sergei certainly did not, and while his brother went on to become a famous author, the details of Sergei’s life are still widely unknown. The relationship between the two brothers was a tortured one, and Vladimir grappled with his brother’s presence in his life by incorporating him in different ways, small and large, into his work. In 1945, Sergei was killed in the Nazi concentration camp of Neuengamme during WWII. Whether it was for his homosexuality, or for political reasons, is unknown.Vladimir described his brother in a letter to Edmund Wilson as “a harmless, indolent, pathetic person.” Vladimir rarely mentioned his brother directly, and many details of Sergei’s life and death, much like the extent of Vladamir’s homophobia and prejudice towards him, are lost to history.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Star Willam’s Disgusting Comments About Trans Men

Willam Belli, known by her drag name “Willam”, is an actor and drag queen who appeared on season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Recently, she made a barrage of disgusting and transphobic comments about transgender men on her live online TV show, ‘suck less’.

A cis white drag queen making transphobic comments? I’m so shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Cis gay men and drag queens being aggressively transphobic and hateful towards trans people? It’s not like that’s the norm or anything…

On an advice segment of her show, Willam was asked by a female viewer for advice about dating a trans man. Instead of offering advice, she had this to say:

“Just because you cut your titties off and take testosterone, that doesn’t change your chromosomes….Here’s the thing, he’s not your boyfriend if he’s not a boy and he’s not f**king you… just because someone says they’re a boy, doesn’t make them a boy…If they haven’t had the science [referring to hormones/surgery], they’re not a boy yet. Just because you cut your titties off and take testosterone, that doesn’t change your chromosomes.”

Willam also had the audacity to reference Brandon Teena, a trans man who was raped and murdered in Nebraska in 1993. Stunningly, on live TV, Willam tried to argue that the murder was justified, and that Brandon had “tricked” people into thinking he was a man. “He bamboozled the girl… he was trans but he could have told them.” she added.

Courtney Act, another queen from Drag Race, was there doing the show with Willam and called her out for being transphobic while she tried her best to salvage the rest of the advice segment.

Willam Belli is just the tip of the iceberg, a symptom of a much larger disease. Transphobia is rampant in the cis gay male community. Despite all of us being in the LGBTQ community, a lot of cis gay men think that the rainbow belongs to them. They may be gay, but they’re still cis, and cis people of any sexuality have the capacity to be transphobic. In general, gay men are no more tolerant of trans people than straight people are, and that’s just the sad truth. Historically, the tradition of drag began with trans women, but modern day drag queens seem to forget this.

Australian Marriage Forum Has Questions, I have Answers.

Australian Marriage Forum, an anti-gay hate group currently campaigning against marriage equality in Australia, asked the Australian public in a recent ad called “Its. Not. Marriage.” what would happen if marriage equality became the law of the land in Australia.

1.Is it ‘Equality’ if you force some kids to miss out on their Dad?

2.Is it ‘Loving’ to destroy the primal love between mother and baby?

Gay parents don’t force kids to miss out on having a mom or a dad. There are children in orphanages with no parents at all. There are happy children with single parents, just a mom, or just a dad. Having two loving parents, a mom and a mom, or a dad and a dad, is no different from having a mom and a dad. Maybe, you might think being raised by a single parent isn’t as beneficial or healthy as having two parents, but does the gender of those two parents really matter? Do you really think children will love their parents any less because they’re the same gender as eachother? What role can a dad fill that a mom can’t, and vice versa? Dads can braid hair, have tea parties, love and nurture as well as moms. Moms can play catch, teach their sons about cars or sports, or whatever else you think only dads can do. The 1950s called, they want their regressive gender roles back.

3.Is it ‘Tolerant’ to silence opponents with anti-discrimination law?

In other words, tolerant people must let intolerant people continue being intolerant towards LGBTQ people, otherwise they themselves are intolerant, therefore negating the point of being tolerant in the first place. Speaking out against intolerance is itself an act of intolerance, so you say. Just because you cannot force your intolerance of gay people into law and create laws that make discrimination against them legal, doesn’t mean “tolerant” people are no longer tolerant. Tolerance is tolerance when it’s towards people of different races, genders, sexualities, nationalities,etc. Tolerance doesn’t mean tolerating you taking rights away from other people.

4.Is it Right to impose homosexual education on all our kids?

Teaching children that LGBTQ people exist, because all kids have the possibility of being LGBTQ themselves? Yes. That is the right thing to do. Teaching kids that LGBTQ people exist and deserve respect just like everyone else promotes, diversity, tolerance, equality, kindness, etc. If you’re pulling your kids out of school for this kind of education, I’m willing to bet you’d be the same parents pulling your kids out of desegregated schools 50 years ago.

5.Is it Honest to lie about what you are going to do with marriage?

Lie? What lie? Here in the United States gay couples have had the right to marry for a couple years now. Marriage hasn’t changed. Straight people get married the same way and no straight marriages have been destroyed over it. The only difference between marriages in 2014 and marriages today is that everyone has the right to have one. That’s it.

6.Is it Even Necessary, now that all couples have equal benefits?

Straight people don’t own marriage. Christians don’t own marriage. It isn’t up to you, Australian Marriage Forum, to decide who gets equal rights and who doesn’t. You are not the gate keepers, the ones who decide who gets to be equal, and who gets to be “justifiably discriminated” against. Equality is equality.

Should You Ask For a Transgender Person’s Pronouns?

Should you really ask a transgender person what their pronouns are? Well, I used to be inclined to say, “Yes! Absolutely! Always ask someone’s pronouns if you’re not sure!”. While you should never assume someone’s pronoun, asking someone their pronouns can be a problem, and here’s why.

Asking a trans person what pronouns they use can make them feel like A. You know they’re trans, and B. They aren’t passing as their gender. If someone looks at me and thinks, “I know this person is not a cis man based on their appearance, so I’m going to ask them their pronouns.”, that would make me feel self-conscious about my appearance, make me feel bad about myself, and even cause me to feel gender dysphoria. This goes double for if I’m in a group of all cisgender people, and I’m the only one divulging my pronouns, when none of the cis people around me are being asked theirs. Essentially, what I’m doing is outing myself to the whole group as trans when you ask me my pronouns.

Alternatively, you could just use gender neutral “they” for new people you meet, if you’re really that concerned with not assuming pronouns, and let the person you meet choose to correct you or not. Does it really matter what gender someone is? Do you have to know a strangers gender, and do they have to divulge to you just because you were progressive and down with the cause that you asked their pronouns? You may feel like a great ally for asking a trans person their pronouns, but you also may have caused that trans person dysphoria and convinced them they’re not passing as well as they thought they were.

I would rather be asked my pronouns then have someone misgender me. I’m not saying you should never ask for pronouns, but there is a time and place to do it, and the way you do it matters. Don’t do it in a way that will make the transgender person you’re asking feel uncomfortable, insecure about their appearance, or like they have to out themselves. Some transgender people, like me, are stealth in many spaces and knowing I’m being read as a non-passing trans person ruins my day.

There are some trans people who are totally comfortable being asked their pronouns and don’t mind at all. I’m only speaking for me; this is my perspective as a trans person, and it’s just my two cents on the matter. Some trans people also may choose to only be out in certain spaces, where they’re comfortable, so when being asked their pronouns, they may be forced to lie about what pronouns they use. Ex. A trans woman who isn’t out in a certain space is forced to lie and say she uses “he/him” pronouns, because she isn’t out as a trans woman and not comfortable divulging her real gender identity or pronouns.

I get that this might seem confusing and complicated, but the solution I might offer to you would be to use neutral “they” for anyone whose pronouns you’re unsure of, and let them make the choice on whether or not they want to tell you (perhaps more privately) what pronouns they use. Or, if you’re in a group, use neutral pronouns until you hear someone else use pronouns for that person, and then you’ll know for sure what pronouns they use. I.e. Call someone “they” until one of their friends addresses them as he/she/they/etc. or until they tell you otherwise.

Honestly, I still do dislike being called “they” because my pronouns are he/him, and being addressed with they/them makes me think that I’m not passing. However, assuming someone who is extremely masculine (or extremely feminine) presenting has a binary identity and binary pronouns erases non binary identities. There’s no perfect solution but this is the best one, in my opinion.

What it all boils down to is this: it’s good to ask pronouns, but only if everyone in the space you’re in is being asked pronouns and you’re not just singling out the one trans person by only asking them for theirs.

Being Transgender is Not a Mental Illness

Being transgender is not a mental illness. It’s still difficult for me to understand (and exhausting) how that could be such a controversial statement. I have been avoiding this discussion for some time now, because I don’t feel the need to justify my trans existence. There are not two sides, there is no agreeing or disagreeing. Transgender people exist. We are human beings, not abstract political ideologies or fun dinner table debates. We. Are. People.

For the sake of education, I will humor, for the moment, that there are two sides to this claim and present evidence and reasoning as to why I believe that I do indeed exist.

The most objective evidence (but not entirely unbiased evidence) I can present is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness, or DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Association. The latest edition of the DSM, the DSM 5, no longer lists “Gender Identity Disorder” as a diagnosis but instead refers to “Gender Dysphoria”. Gender Dysphoria, as defined by the DSM, refers to the distress that may accompany the incongruence between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s assigned gender. Although not all individuals experience distress as a result of such incongruence, many are distressed if the desired physical interventions by means of hormones and/or surgery are not available. The APA states,

“Gender Dysphoria is a term that reflects more accurately than Gender Identity Disorder when an individual is distressed about a conflict between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity/role. ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ suggests that their gender identity is disordered, yet having any gender identity, including a transgender identity, is not a disorder….the change in the DSM from Gender Identity Disorder to Gender Dysphoria was a way to depathologize having a gender identity that differs from one’s sex assigned at birth and recognize the concern and clinical care that transgender may need to achieve comfort with their gender identity, their body and gender role.”

The reason why I say the DSM is not entirely objective, is because science and and psychology are not exempt from political bias. Transgender people existed well before the DSM 5 came out, and the change in the DSM didn’t mean transgender people were mentally ill up until that point, and with the release of the DSM 5, were no longer mentally ill. In the past, psychologists have used mental illness to justify transphobia, homophobia, sexism, and racism. In fact, in the mid-1800s, enslaved African-Americans were considered to have a mental illness if they attempted to escape. Women who were “independently minded” were also considered to have a mental illness. All of these “mental illnesses” were influenced by the political bias of the time. Regardless of what the DSM says or has said, there is nothing pathological about being transgender, and as now, the APA agrees.

Some might argue that because there is a high rate of mental illness and suicide in the transgender community, that being transgender itself is a mental illness. While it may be true that transgender people have a statistically higher chance of attempting suicide, correlation does not equal causation. Veterans have a statistically higher rate of suicide and mental illness than the general population, that doesn’t mean being a veteran is a mental illness in itself. Transgender people experience a high rate of discrimination, prejudice, violence, murder, rape, homelessness, poverty, workplace and housing discrimination, I could go on. If you believe that transgender people experience a higher rate of mental illness and suicide because being transgender is a mental illness, you’re failing to factor in outside influences. Society is overwhelmingly hostile and hateful towards transgender people, and being exposed to constant dehumanizing and life-threatening conditions would damage anyone’s mental health.

Direct Action Works @ Duke University

I spent the summer in North Carolina with my family. My grandfather was an alumni of Duke University, and I remember seeing the Robert E. Lee statue in front of the chapel, the few times I visited the campus with him. I’ve seen what it looks like clean, and now I’m proud to say I’ve seen what it looks like vandalized and destroyed. Following a surge in anti-fascist anti-racism protests in response to the events of Charlottesville, Virginia, the confederate statue was defaced on Wednesday. This morning, NPR reported that Duke University has removed the statue from outside the chapel for good.

This is what direct action looks like. These are the real results of taking to the streets and demanding justice.