Transgender Day of Visibility 2012, San Jose, Recap

April 1st, 2012

Thanks everybody who made yesterday’s 2012 Transgender Day of Visibility event the success it was! The three afternoon discussions were well attended… it was gratifying to hear happy remarks as people exited the rooms, and to see so many folks getting their legal forms related questions answered. Clearly, we have room to add more sessions in the future!

At the main event, The Gender Queer Drag Troop were fabulous once again (and yes, some folks did totally get the joke of the first one 😉 ); there was something extra amusing about the dad of one of the performers filming the songs! Kevin Roche, former leather titleholder and IRLM emperor graced us with a lounge song, which the audience appropriately snapped their fingers to, and two poets (Sarah and Jesse) read their riveting works. Around the room, browsers enjoyed art and played fun, edifying, and crazy-making original video games.

Adam Spickler, activist volunteer and Senior Field Representative for Assembly Member Bill Monning, brought us up to date on current legislative and other political goings on (bringing up the importance of Planned Parenthood to trans people as well as to women), and BJ Fadem, Esq. followed with information on paperwork.

The short films all got laughter and thoughtful consideration: Sam Berliner’s ‘Perceptions’ trilogy (the link is only the first part), Shawna Virago’s ‘Transsexual Dominatrix,’ and Hugh Jasoll’s ‘Stuff Cis People Say to Trans People.’ It was great to have Hugh there to talk about his piece, and his TransFix work.

We closed with a showing of the Spanish trans Ikea ad (live version, not the video), and a discussion of the new religion’s study on trans acceptance. Visibility is working! Joanne read the stunning ‘How to Make Love to a Trans Person‘ poem to a hushed and tear-brushing-aside audience as our finale.

I was super pleased to see the diversity of the turn out this year, and to watch people just hanging out and talking. For next year, we’re going to have a committee, and grow this event even further!

A final note… so many people pitched in to volunteer and make TDOV work! Kevin and Andy brought their sound system, Wyatt ran the computer (and that was real sweat! – special thanks to Nori here and everywhere!), lots of the South Bay Trans Men pitched in, Joanne helped the wine bar and the whole event, and many attendees helped with clean up. Friends put together resources (and the Pink Spots were great), and gathered other friends… Participants came from Oakland and San Francisco, and shared their knowledge in discussion. Thanks to these good folks and all those whose names I didn’t mention!

Upcoming Trans Visibility Events at DeAnza College

February 23rd, 2012

The lgbt group at DeAnza college (http://www.deanza.edu/) has a couple student-orientated events coming up!

– Trans Awareness panel/movie/etc: Wed. March 15th 5 pm
– Flash Mob: March 7th; the primary focus is creating visibility–be it recognizing hate crimes or just showing people that holding hands in public should not be something that incites violence.

Why I Sat at Pantheacon

February 20th, 2012

Pantheacon is a large, wonderful convention where Pagans from across the country gather once a year to grow community and explore spirituality. This year, the main event for me was a sit-in on Sunday night.

The sit – I love this contemporary version of the sit-in of the ’60s, where one sits in silent meditation – was held in the hall outside of Z Budapest’s cisgender-women-only ritual. Z Budapest is a founding figure in modern Paganism; so important to the early feminist thought which broadened and deepened the emerging collection of spiritual practices deemed Paganism. She is a true Grandmother.

Her importance only adds to the heartbreak of her hate speech. Her attempted explanation and apologies devolve over and over into defining trans women as ‘other,’ as ‘not women.’ There is room for separate space (though likely it will still get its protests); there isn’t room for telling other people what they are, or are not, nor for labeling them violent or invaders.

There was no point in arguing; so we sat. T. Thorn Coyle (a erudite teacher and blogger) organized a peaceful, silent protest. With only one day’s notice, over 80 of us gathered to sit outside of Z’s presentation. Others also came to hold space and chant. It was a powerful, difficult experience.

I found a wave of grief crashing over me; I couldn’t even name all of its parts – sorrow for my own experience, for this fossilizing in a Pagan elder, for the pain of the community. It was a blessing I have an actual meditative sitting practice; I used that experience to remain present and open, to the wave, to my own body, to the astonishing outpouring of silent support around me. It turned into an experience of healing I couldn’t have dreamed of.

Thank you, Thorn, and all members of the sangha of that night.

Hold the date: 3/31/12 Transgender Day of Visibility

February 9th, 2012

I am really pleased to announce that this year’s CA south bay TDOV will take place at the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center on Saturday, March 31st. We’re gonna build on last year’s success and create a diverse and fun experience!

So far we have speakers, including a lawyer and a legislative assistant, a short film, and performances. We also have an earlier start time this year, so we can have discussion panels.

Want to participate? Have an idea for a panel? Let me know!

New book!

February 9th, 2012

Friends of mine have edited and just released a new essay collection, “Gender and Transgender in Modern Paganism.” It’s available as a free download, or order-able printed book, at http://cerridwen.st4r.org/wiki/index.php/Gender_and_Transgender_in_Modern_Paganism. Check it out if you’re interested in the intersection of transgender issues and spirituality.

I was honored to be selected as a contributor. I felt like I was being risky in my style; it’s a near stream-of-consciousness travel through time and experience, revealing the intersections of transition and spirituality that I traversed. It was fun to find another author (T. Thorn Coyle, whose work I really admire) used a similar approach. 🙂 Mine is rather a historical piece nowadays; so much (thankfully) has changed in the visibility of transgender people and experience.

I like that the book offers a variety of voices, from assorted sides of the issue (there are more than two, methinks). Some are long-winded, some are exciting, some brisk and some detailed. I think it’s a good read.

There will be another discussion on gender the paganism at the upcoming Pantheacon conference (www.pantheacon.org). There’s plenty to discuss!

On the TDOR, 2011

November 22nd, 2011

This year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, held at the DeFrank San Jose and organized by the inimitable Nori Herras, was a different experience.

Rather than being downstairs in the big ballroom, we were upstairs in a somewhat smaller, closer space. The simple decorations were lovely, and brought the smaller space to life.

This year, there were no big name speakers. This year, it was community members who took the mic, and spoke from their hearts. I did have a somewhat prepared speech, which I only slightly deviated from. What surprised me was how my emotions were overflowing, grief to gratitude. It took conscious effort to get the words out.

I loved hearing people speak… communities members I’d seen around but not gotten to know, my own sweetie sharing something of her experience. A college age trans man was there, and though he didn’t take the mic, I did enjoy chatting with him, and expect to see him at the South Bay Transmen meetings (there’s one tonight!). He had a lot of style.

Moments of community spirit are a treasure.

Transgender Day of Remembrance in San Jose, 11/20

November 15th, 2011

This Sunday join the south bay trans community in our vigil for trans people who’ve lost their lives to violence in the last year. Together we are stronger.

We meet at 6pm at the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center, 938 The Alameda, San Jose.

In the middle of the road

November 8th, 2011

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a friend’s birthday extravaganza, a gathering in a lovely outdoor hot tub setting.

After a time, I wandered off by myself to spend some time in the sauna. This turned out to be a wonderful open, wooden room, with little stairs up to platforms, and lower areas for those who didn’t want as much heat. There was one other man in the place.I climbed the little stairs opposite of him, bending over to avoid hitting my head on the ceiling, then sitting down.

I settled into a simple meditation pose, enjoying the fragrant, quiet, hot space. After a couple of minutes, the man asked, “May I speak to you from the heart?” The sauna is a nonspeaking zone, so I was fairly surprised, but he sounded sincere, so I agreed.

Did I mention he was gorgeous? That combination of physical magnificence and verbal sincerity was intriguing.

“I want to thank you for being you,” he said, and went on briefly in that vein, very open hearted. It took me a minute to reply with a “Thank you,” also admitting it was “interesting” to be in that space (as with most California hot tub locales, it was a clothing optional facility, and like everyone else, I had opted not to wear a swimsuit. It was perhaps more of an issue for me than some folks).

We returned to silence after than, and a minute or two later, he left.

In that pause, before I responded with permission to speak, and again in the one after he did talk, a lot of thoughts raced through my head. Why speak? Because I was trans of course; visibly different than the other men in the space. Did I really want to hear what he had to say? And then, how do I respond? Being ‘special’ was a mixed moment.

And after the brief chat… as a man, I do have a powerful, good feeling response when a cisgender man gives me positive, respectful appreciation.

And yet…

My sweetie put it well, when I told her story. “Why can’t my sweetie just meditate? Why does he have to be interrupted?”

This interaction shows how far trans people have come, in being accepted in the U.S. And how very far we have to go.

CA Governor Signs Important Transgender Protections into Law

October 11th, 2011

Here are two new laws which will make a difference in people’s lives! The first clearly adds gender and identity to our nondiscrimination laws; vital to the employment and housing concerns of trans people (among other issues). The second simplifies and clarifies who is qualified to change gender in CA, eliminating some confusion with federal requirements. Good stuff!

From the Transgender Law Center:
“With the help of your input and our partners at Equality California and GSA Network, we came up with two legislative solutions to these problems.

The Gender Nondiscrimination Act (AB 887) takes existing protections based on gender and spells out “gender identity and expression” as their own protected categories in our nondiscrimination laws. By making these protections explicit, people will more clearly understand California’s nondiscrimination laws, which should increase the likelihood that employers, schools, housing authorities, and other institutions will work to prevent discrimination and/or respond more quickly at the first indications of discrimination.

The Vital Statistics Modernization Act (AB 433) will alleviate the confusion, anxiety and even danger that transgender people face when we have identity documents that do not reflect who we are. The bill will streamline current law and clarify that eligible petitioners living or born in California can submit gender change petitions in the State of California. The Vital Statistics Modernization Act conforms California’s standards to the standards set by the United States Department of State for gender changes on passports, and it makes common-sense changes to the law that ensure the process is simple for qualified petitioners to navigate.”

Congrats to everyone who did the work!

Conference on Earth-Based Spiritualities & Gender

August 27th, 2011

I’m happy to have been accepted as a presenter at the upcoming Bay Area conference on the intersection of pagan and transgender issues on 9/24/11. Check it out.

The only problem with the conferences is there are so many conflicting panels I’d like to attend! P. Sufenas Virius Lupus and T. Thorn Coyle and…

See http://genderandpaganismconference.eventbrite.com/ to register or see the full schedule.