You Mean Laugh AT Us

“You need to learn to laugh at yourself” is something I’ve often heard. It’s true. We need to laugh at ourselves. When people who have oppressed trans women for decades, erased them from the very riots they started, deny their existence, and even helped passed legislation against them, tell these same people to ‘laugh’ they are saying, “let us laugh at you, your lives, your identities. Let us laugh at your suffering, your pain, your dehumanization, and your objectification!” Not so funny now, is it?

When people defend the use of slurs, by telling those affected to just laugh, this is what they are saying. The use of slurs is funny! The pain, the assault, the murder, the rape, the dehumanization, it’s all hilarious! Comedy based on the age old trope that you can tell a trans woman from a cis woman because they are obviously male is hilarious! Who cares if it is not only fake, but run into the ground! Everyone loves beating dead unicorns!

This is not an issue that is just present in drag either. This isn’t and issue contained to RuPaul and his supporters/defenders (who are being rightfully called out). This is an issue that is deeply ingrained in the idea that jokes suddenly make everything ok. They erase the history and power of words, under the guise of humor. Suddenly these realities do not exist because the joke totally isn’t funny only because these ideas are rooted as truths! …Right?

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Dysphoria Not Required

There is this running idea that what ties trans people together is their dysphoria, their mutual disdain for certain parts of their bodies (which is usually assumed to be genitals). Yet, there are trans people who exist without any pain caused by their bodies. They love their bodies. They embrace them. Are they trans then? Of course they are. Trans is not about dysphoria. This is a common misconception, even in the trans community. Trans is about identifying as something other than what was assumed at your birth.

The origins of this idea, date back to when being trans was first medicalized. They needed a set of definitions in order to treat trans people. Among the need for dysphoria, was also the need for trans women to be feminine and heterosexual. Trans men were to be masculine as well as heterosexual. If a trans person was not straight, their identities were considered to be fetish (for trans women), or just confused straight women with penis envy (for trans men). Non-binary people did not exist, nor did queer binary people, according to the old standards. Definitions and standards created by cis people.

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Gaming Culture and Safe Spaces

As of Tuesday, April 8th, the trans- prefix has been uncensored! We did it! I am continuing to work with Blizzard as they are also overlooking how they deal with issues like this in the future. For more on that, please see the coverage over on Ars Technica.

Diablo III’s most recent patch allows for the creation of clans. As someone who created several trans gaming groups, my girlfriend (Olivia Quin) and I thought this would be a wonderful time to create a trans gaming clan on Diablo III. There was already as Gaymers clan, why would there be an issue for a trans-related gaming clan? We were wrong. So very wrong.

It turns out that the prefix trans- or tran- is banned. I can understand that tran- would be banned to prevent people from creating groups using t****y, but why not just ban that slur and several variations for it? That should be enough, correct? Apparently not. Anything involving the prefix trans- is forbidden in clan creation. This means that clans with involving non-trasnsgender are also banned as well such as transformers, transdimensional, transcend, and any of the words beginning with the extremely common trans- prefix.

So, I contacted Diablo III support. I had to do it in a slightly roundabout way. This is the exact message I sent to them:

Hello!

I am contacting you in regards to creating clans in the newest Diablo III patch. I am trying to make a clan for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who would like to play the game together in a relatively safe space of like identified individuals. However, I have come to find out that the prefix trans is banned in clan creation! I understand this is to prevent people from creating offensive clans, but it is doing just the opposite. You allow the word gay as a prefix for clans, as there is a Gaymers clan, yet do not allow the same for transgender individuals. In fact, this forbids words such as transdimensional and so forth. The word gay has much more room for offensive and harmful clan names than trans does and deletes the possibility of safe spaces for transgender people to get together and enjoy your games. This creates a harmful environment for people like myself who wish you play your game and know that I will be a respected member of my clan, regardless of my gender identity, presentation, how my voice sounds over Vent/Skype, and so on. This sends a message that gay people are allowed to create their own clans and freely interact on your servers, but trans people are not. Please reconsider your ban of the prefix trans- and thus banning all transgender related clans and groups.

Thank you for your time.

I was told to post something on the forums as that was the best way to contact the developers. As someone who knew nothing of the Blizzard forums, I did just that, adding in this statement as well:

Banning the prefix trans while allowing the word gay sends a message. You can be an openly gay gamer, but you cannot be openly trans. They allow for clans to be created around being gay, such as the Gaymers clan, but will not allow a similar TransGamers clan (which is what was trying to be created). This creates an environment that allows for people to be openly gay, but not openly trans, and requires people to create codewords, and in community buzzwords to create a similar clan for a similar experience, gaming with people who share the same identity and will respect you for who you are. Blizzard is sending a very poor message to the trans gaming community by not allowing people to create safe clan experiences for themselves while allowing others to do that with words which can be used in a much more harmful sense (such as gay).

This seems pretty straight forward. There are no negative drawbacks to unbanning the prefix trans- and allows for people to create safe spaces for like-minded trans gamers and their allies, friends, partners, and so forth. The unbanning of the trans- prefix would allow people to also create a variety of non-transgender related clans in the game. The filter system was already pretty disliked by the Blizzard community due to how strict is can be, why would something this small be seen as anything but positive?

I was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

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Straight Men: Ya’ll Are GAY

It’s time to give up the act. We all know, it’s pretty obvious, straight guys. We know you are secretly hounding for the D, you talk about it all the time. I’ve seen the way you slap your best bro’s ass while loudly proclaiming “no homo!”. Give it up, we know what you mean and it SCREAMS “yes homo”. Hell, even science isn’t on your side (TW: transmisogny). You look for penises as much as you look for vaginas in porn. In fact, you don’t just love dicks, you love BIG dicks. You can’t get enough of men with huge cocks. Straight men, you are the gayest people to walk this earth.

I have never met another group of men that hounds other guys about their dicks as much as straight men do. They are always talking about dick. Seriously. They brag about their own, ask other dudes about theirs, and its one of the most common things straight men look at in porn. I have never heard gay men talk about penises in the way straight men do. It’s like it is part of bro code to talk about the dick as much as possible. They even draw penises on everything. If you’ve ever stepped foot into a men’s locker room or bathroom, you’ve seen at least 5 crudely scribbled penises on the walls, lockers, anything they can profess their love of cock on.

Who names their online accounts, passwords, and so one after penises? Straight men. SirLongSchlong? Most likely straight. Bigcoc69? Straight. Straight men spend most of their time thinking about dick. It’s their favorite past time. They compare their dicks to one another, actively engaging in staring contests at another man’s penis in order to see who is the best. It rules their world. They love giant cocks. They thrive for them!

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The Myth of Slacktivism

A ‘slacktivist’ is someone who chooses to do all or most of their activist work through online mediums such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and so on. These people are often disregarded as lesser and lazy activists when compared to those who are able to do activism work offline. For example, UrbanDictionary.com defines slacktivism as, “The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem”. The example given is people signing online petitions as opposed to getting involved in neighborhood watches or other offline activities. The concept of ‘slacktivism’ and that people who focus their ideas online are ‘slacktivists’ is extremely problematic and downplays the importance and reach of online activism.

The idea of slacktivism is rooted in ableism. Not everyone has the ability to mentally or physically engage in activism offline. For example, someone who has to deal with social anxiety may not be able to attend marches or large gatherings. Someone who suffers from a pain disorder may not be able to walk in marches or stand for long periods of time. Implying that people who participate in online activism are inherently lazy, ignores the fact that some of these people may not be able to physically attend activist events, no matter how much they want to. These people do important work in the ways they can, such as online work that is so quickly discredited without thinking about the reasons someone may not be able to attend or do offline work.

The idea of slackitvism is also classist. I live in an area with no public transportation. There is no way for me to attend many meetings, marches, and so one without a ride. The idea that people who participate in online activism have the means to travel or to take time off of work in order to participate in offline work is classist. For example, people may not be able to take off work in order to attend offline events and thus may spend valuable and limited free time doing online work. For people in areas with limited resources, the closest areas that have a large enough resource pool may be hours away. These people may not have the resources in order to set up their own grassroots organizations or the money and time to travel and thus, resort to online activism in order to be a part of events and causes they feel are important to them.

 

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Speak Out, Act Up

“Just ignore them, they will stop”, “Don’t give them attention”, “They’re wrong. People won’t believe that stuff”, are a few of the things I hear when someone in the media does something to spread misinformation about a group I happen to be associated with. Why do we tell each other to ignore this? Why are we forced to ignore potentially harmful information?

I have a feeling it plays into the idea that we most be a model at all times. We must always be on our best behavior and that we must always play the game with a smile and a nod. Yes, we see you being problematic, but don’t worry, we wouldn’t dare call you out in case we lose an ally! This is of course, extremely harmful, dangerous, and can be potentially deadly.

Take for example one of the most recent the Regular Guys show on Atlanta 1005FM. They had a caller call in about Karen Adell Scot, a teacher who recently came out as a transgender woman and will be attending classes from now on as the woman she is. They took this segment to pull the “think about the children” card as well as repeatedly call her transmisogynistic slurs, and violently misgender her.

This comes not too long after the one year anniversary of Lucy Meadows, another trans teacher who was harassed by the Daily Mail and other media outlets to the point she committed suicide. A year after, we are experiencing the same issues of misgendering, transmisogyny, transphobia, and blatant disrespect for the mental well being of another human.

 

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The Families We Create

Blood is thicker than water is something we are taught from birth. We are taught that our families are made of blood as opposed to the relationships that we form with those closest to us. For many queer people, we know the reality of this statement. Blood is just as thin as water, if not thinner. Families may cut ties at the drop of a hat due to a child or relative coming out. If they do not immediately cut the relative out, they may harass, assault, abuse, the person mentally, physically, and even sexually in an attempt to change them or chase them from the family.

Often our families are those who support and love us for who we are. If there is one thing queer people know about, its how to make families from scratch. We create our families from the friends who accept up after we have seemingly lost everything for simply existing. We make patchwork families, held together by legitimate love, something that may be lacking from our family of origin, whether they are truly related by blood, legal documents, or formalities. Among these families we create, we create safety and comfort.

 

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Not A Performance: Jared Leto and the Media

(Warning: Dallas Buyers Club spoilers)

So, Jared Leto won an Oscar for his portrayal of Rayon, a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club. A cis man won an award for portraying (poorly) a trans woman in a movie. This almost writes itself like a joke, waiting for a punchline. Sadly, the punchline is all too common, trans narratives being over written by cis voices. In fact, Rayon’s character was originally written as a drag queen. The director and Leto decided to change Rayon to a trans woman….without changing any of the script. Rayon’s character is not based on any real person. She is an entirely fictionalized representation meant to bring pity from the main character, Ron, as well as drive his character development.

This is interesting, because Leto refuses to acknowledge the character he played, the fact he portrayed a woman. When confronted with his transmisogyny he spoke of “the Rayons in the world”. He did not speak of trans women. Even in his Oscar acceptance speech, he mentioned Ukraine. No where did he ever mention the type of very REAL people he was portraying in the movie. To Leto and the director, Rayon was just a character, an act. To them, there are not real women in the world like Rayon.

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I Am Not Your Poster Child

Humans, by nature, are imperfect. In fact, human is almost synonymous with imperfection. However, minorities are held to the idea of perfect. They must be poised, well-spoken, and perfect, down to their very person, at all times. They are expected to be willing to educate at a moments notice, willing to engage, and willing to explain. They must be a single example of the perfect model of who they and others like them can be. They must be able to be put on a pedestal for others to admire and aspire to. Of course, these ideals are always created and upheld by the majority.

I can only speak on this from a trans/cis perspective, however it seems to be something that is pervasive among other marginalized groups. However, I will not be speaking on this for obvious reasons. I will be focusing on standards and ideals imposed on trans people, trans lives, and trans narratives from here on out.

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Cis Privilege

Transgender (or trans) people face extreme degrees of discrimination and oppression, especially at interactions of identities such as race and sexual orientation. However, many people are not aware of the types of privilege they hold over trans people. For example, the majority of people do not know that the word cisgender exists. Cisgender is the opposite of transgender, meaning that someone who is cisgender (or cis) identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth, while someone who is trans identifies as something other than the gender they were assigned at birth (Serano, 2013). The majority would use words like real, biological, actual, or even normal, to describe cis people in relation to trans people, one of the examples of cis privilege. Thus, cisgender privilege is the unearned advantages afforded to people for simply being cis. It is similar to white or male privilege in the fact that is is unearned and granted to a majority group that is generally considered the default (Mio, Barker, & Tumambing, 2012). In this paper, I will outline ten more cis privileges and explain them, as well as provide examples of where and how this lack of privilege impacts trans people’s lives, sometimes to the point of psychological and physical harm, or resulting in the loss of homes, jobs, and freedoms.

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