Tag Archives: life

An Interview with Transgender Faith Leader Stephanie Mott

I first met Stephanie Mott in May, 2011. We were fighting for the Manhattan, Kansas commissioners to not repeal the anti-discrimination ordinance passed back in February that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes. You read that right, only three months after passing the ordinance the new Manhattan commission was working on revoking the rights of queer Manhattan residents. The anti-discrimination ordinance had made Manhattan, Kansas the second place in Kansas to add not only sexual orientation but gender identity to protected classes of citizens with Lawrence, Kansas being the first. In three short months, we saw these rights being ripped from under us.

We heard arguments from both sides, watching as ministers and fellow residents saying the protection was unnecessary because they had never seen someone discriminated on these bases. These responses came after person after person recounted tales of discrimination based on their gender and their sexual orientation, one of those people being me and another being Stephanie Mott. I remember coming down from speaking, shaking like a leaf. I was red, scared, and nervous. Stephanie hugged me and told me I had done an amazing job and handed me the card for her organization, KSTEP (Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project).

This experience of being given rights and then watching them ripped out from under you and meeting Stephanie are experiences that have changed my life and have shaped many things in the years after. They are stories I recount often as the fight for basic protections continues across the United States and across the world. Stephanie, her kindness, and her story, and her dedication are something I look to frequently as something to strive towards.

What strikes me most about Stephanie is her unwavering faith. Stephanie is a Christian transsexual woman who frequently posts about her religion and its influence on her life. She even has a book titled God Doesn’t Have a Penis, and Other Writings by a Transsexual Christian Woman. She does not let those who question her identity and its intersection with her religion get in her way. This is most evident in her Trans Faith Tour she is currently doing across the country, talking about her experiences as a Christian trans woman.

I recently interviewed Stephanie about her Trans Faith Tour, KSTEP, and several other things.

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Queering Religion

Religion and queer identities- often these two things are seen as conflicting forces. If you are one, you cannot be the opposite. Religion and being queer cannot exist hand-in-hand and when they do, it is often not only in conflict with the person, but within their community at large as well. Religion and queer are seen as conflict and negative, rarely as something ever positive. Even when the topic of queering religion comes up, it often comes up in the form of gay and lesbian members of the Judeo-Christian churches. Narratives focus on them and their sexuality, within the context of how they manage to reconcile their sexuality with their religion. These forces are still seen at odds as opposed to complimentary modes of support that create a whole rather than conflicting parts.

Rarely is the queering of religion spoken about as the involvement of transgender and gender non-conforming religious and spiritual people. Maybe occasionally, but not in the same vein as queer sexualities in regards to religions. Then again, this tends to be the case with anything that does not follow the Big Gay focus of marriage and assimilation.

Thus, religion as a positive force is rarely ever explored when it comes to queer identities, let alone gender. Even rarer is the exploration of how religion can help one better express their gender and their identities and relationship with their gender and their religion or spirituality. Religion is often such a negative influence that we often forget the positive that religion can do for people and communities, the help religion can provide as well as the guidance it can bring.

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Collection: My Body, My Identity, My Voice

There is nothing more intimate than ourselves. There is nothing that we tend to try and know better than ourselves. What makes us? We try to figure this out from all planes, from how we function, what makes us feel good, and what even describes how and who we are. This is a collection of pieces I’ve written over the months about my body, my identity, and who exactly I am.

I am loud, flashy, and flamboyant. In fact, one of the perfect descriptors for me is a peacock, specifically a male one. Gender: Peacock is where I started talking about myself, my identity, my body, and how the intersections of these things are not always as they appear to be. They are confusing, fluid, and downright bizarre to some (including myself). Sometimes, no matter how sure we know ourselves, there are always mysteries that puzzle us.

When you are trans*, and you speak of your history and your body, a peculiar thing happens. You can feel them, the eyes slowly undressing you, as if trying to verify your story.” Personal, Political, Intimate details how when we talk about our bodies, everything becomes intimate. Our knowledge of ourselves, of our identities, everything. The personal is not just political, but intimate as well.

This intimate knowledge of ourselves is what leads us to define us, our bodies. My Body Is My Own praises bodily autonomy and calls into question those who decide what we can call ourselves. Dictating how someone controls their own body is violent bondage, anything less would be a falsehood. Removal of bodily autonomy is removal of freedom, one of the very most basic ones. It is removal of the right to exist.

It is also the removal of self-knowledge and self-determination. No one knows my body better than I do. However, whenever I talk about my body, others proclaim differently. In 22 Years: My Body, I discuss how their proclamations can never be true. How these proclamations from people who have never seen my body and most likely never will, are false, erasing, and damaging. “These people have not felt it change and shift, nor have they felt the pain or sorrow it has held. They have not experienced nearly losing it either, not the fear of losing it. No matter how close they get, they cannot inhabit me.”

It is due to this existence, one that should not exist, I consider my waking up every day a rebellion. Our Lives: Rebellion was a piece written for Permanent Wave Philly. It is meant to show that sometimes, things that we do not consider to be rebellion or even to be activism, certainly are. We live in a world of binaries and boxes, of assumptions and pre-determined destinies. To exist outside of them is rebellion and an act that shakes the foundation just a little bit more.

Growing up trans* and queer has its own issues. Throw a mental health issue on top of that and you have a whole fun equation. In Borderline Personality Disorder and My Experiences, I describe what it is like to grow up in the cross-roads of these identities and how they are still affecting me to this day.

Due to this, I wrote The Internet Saved My Life which details how the internet replaced all local support systems for me. The internet became a valuable tool in exploring who I was, creating support, and realizing that I was not honestly alone. People tend to devalue online relationships too much without examining how truly amazing and impacting these can be on someone’s life.

All of this together makes me no less valid as a person, especially a queer and trans* person. While I Am Valid was written out of anger for those questioning my identity due to my femme nature, it is also a truth when people bring up my history of mental health problems. None of these things make my identity less valid, in fact, they make me even more. I am real and I have suffered, elated and survived for my reality.

Media’s Giant (Trans) Exploitation Problem

“Focus on the science, not the scientist.” That is what Caleb Hannan promised Dr. V when interviewing her about her golf putter. However, during his research for his piece, Hannan found out that Dr. V happened to be trans*. Upon this discovery, Hannan broke his promise to his client and proceeded to write a piece, focusing on Dr. V’s past, her trans* status, misgendering her, and outing her to her investors. Due to this, Dr V committed suicide. Despite this tragedy, the piece still went up.

A piece littered with misgendering, focusing on her history as a trans woman, and painting Hannan in the light of some detective uncovering the Watergate of this century. Why? Because the woman he was writing about happened to have a different birth assignment than the one he assumed? He broke the trust and privacy of the person he was writing about for a profit. His story about a golf putter suddenly became one of lies and deceit in his eyes. Why? What does the assigned gender of a person have anything to do with golf? Was this story about her overcoming misogyny? Was this a story of intelligence beating out bigotry? It was not. This was supposed to be a story about the science behind the golf putter Dr. V invented.

Forget “focus on the science” that he promised this woman. She was no more, so to the wind that went. The entire piece became about the scientist, that Hannan had killed with his own hands. This man even had the gall to call a piece full of misgendering, pointless back story, and broken promises a eulogy. Last time I checked, a eulogy was not the cause of death. He even went as far as to brag on Twitter about the “strangest story” he has ever written. Are eulogies supposed to be strange? Or are they supposed to highlight the triumphs, life, and positives of a person’s life? Hannan is directly responsible for the death of a woman. So, what will happen?

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22 Years: My Body

I have lived in this body of mine for 22 years. I know most of the ins and outs of it. I know what feels good, feels bad, makes me sick, makes me happy, or makes me sad. I know when I am getting sick and I know when something is wrong. I have lived in my body for 22 years now and in a short time, I will have lived in it for 23 years. In fact, I have had this body for even longer than that, but it was not really complete at that time, even now, my body is incomplete.

However, when someone asserts they know more about my body than I, they are asserting they have more intimate knowledge of the body I have spent 22 years residing in. When someone asserts that how I label my body is incorrect or wrong, they are saying they have more knowledge of my body than I do. In fact, many people base their arguments on my body based on what a doctor spent three seconds looking at when I was born, my genitals. These people are asserting that this doctor, who only knew me for those mere moments, knows me better than I do after 22 years in this body.

My body is my own. When people assert that they know more about my body and how to label it, they are removing this fact. When people argue that I am ‘female-bodied’ as opposed to male-bodied, they are stripping me of my bodily autonomy. They are removing me of my right to exist as I am and as I have learned who I am. When people assert their labels over my own, they are telling me that they have more intimate knowledge of the body I have spent 22 years in. Many of these people are people who have never met me. Many of these people have only interacted with me through words and text. These are people who have never even seen the body they are trying to describe, they just simply know I am trans*.

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Detransition And Trans Regret

There is something that is talked about very little in the trans* community, or when it is talked about, is only talked about in a negative fashion. Detransitioning, where a trans* person decides to no longer transition and/or live as a gender other than the one they were coercively assigned at birth, is something that is often only brought up in a negative light. People who have detransitioned are often used as evidence that trans* people should not transition. There are people who have detransitioned who are also very vocal advocates for not allowing people to transition due to their personal experiences. There are people who also detransition who are not vocal opponents of those who are transitioning or seeking to transition. These people live the rest of their lives as happy cis folk. They realize their experiences are their own.

There is nothing inherently wrong with detransitioning. We are afforded (or should be afforded) bodily autonomy to do with our bodies as we please. People detransition for numerous reasons, some simply because of no longer identifying in that way, others due to the stigmas associated with being trans*, and others for more complex and varied reasons. There is no wrong reason to detransition. If we are to be afforded bodily autonomy to transition, we must acknowledge the same respect for others. While we may not agree on the reasons, we must allow people to do with their bodies as they wish for their happiness.

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My Body Is My Own

My body is my own. My body is no one else’s. My body is my own to do with as I please. What I do with my body, consensually, does not harm anyone else. My body is to do with as I please. I say this as a trans* person. I say this as someone who has to have doctors upon doctors tell me how I can use my body to make it more of my own. I say this as a person with body mods, which society dictates makes me a rebel and an outcast. I say this as someone who in the future wishes to cover HIS body with ink and art, which society tells me, makes me stupid.

My body is my own. I have every right to do with my body as I please. To say anything else is oppressive violence. Seems like a strong word, but it is truth. Dictating how a person uses their body and controls their body is the very way oppressors take away power. They dictate what people can and cannot do with their body. They take away their right to own themselves, since they cannot make up their own choices about their own flesh and blood. This is oppression, this is violence. They make laws against our bodies. They institutionalize their control over our bodies. They invade our very bodies as much as they can, forcefully and violently.

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Remembering ALL Our Dead: Transgender Day of Remembrance

Trigger Warning: Violence, assault, murder, suicide, racism, trans*phobia, transmisogyny

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is not without its issues. In fact, TDoR has some pretty big issues. Most of the murders of trans* people are trans women and trans feminine people of color, however, there seems to be a lack of discussion on race and how it impacts the lives of these women. There is no doubt this is not just an issue in theory, but in practice. While there have been women of color speakers at the TDoR events I have been to, they are always run by white trans* people. Clearly the event needs to be broadened and run by trans women of color.

There is another aspect that TDoR ignores. While their website chronicles the reported murders of trans* people across the world at the hands of others. This means that a large number of trans* murders are still undocumented as well due to incorrect reporting, unknown identity, undiscovered bodies, and so on. However, it does not report on the murders at the hands of the trans* people themselves. Trans* people murdered by the idea that society does not want them. Trans* people murdered by the idea that they are not worthy of life. Trans* people murdered by the fact they must face every day in a world that wishes them dead.

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No Obligation in Education

There seems to be a trend among those who are interested or uneducated in feminism and other social justice movements. This need almost always comes from those who are from the majority (thus, generally white, straight, cis men) who feel that they can demand education from those who are knowledgeable in the subject. They get angry or upset when someone refuses to educate them or does not want to answer their many questions.

Often, the questions that are asked are easily answered via Google. There are many, many 101 courses that people have written to cover these questions. Many people have to answer the same questions, repeatedly, and it can get quite annoying. For example, I often get asked what the asterisk in trans* stands for or what does queer mean. These questions are easily entered into Google with hundreds of resources for people to look into.

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Our Lives: Rebellion

This first appeared in Permanent Wave Philly‘s zine entitled Tiny Acts of Rebellion. Currently the full zine is not available for download, but when it is, I will link it.

Every day I wake up is a small act of rebellion. Every day I walk out the door is a small act of rebellion. Everything I say is a small act of rebellion. My mere existence is a rebellion. For years, and even now, people have told me to shut up. People have told me to kill myself. People have told me that I should disappear. People have told me I don’t exist. Despite these things people has told me many times over, I am still around. I am still alive and louder than ever.

This is not something unique to me either. Every queer person alive is an act of rebellion. Our mere will to live is a rebellion against a society that tells us we are not worthy. It is a rebellion against the cissexist and homophobic world we live in. Queer people rebel with every breath they take. Merely being alive and refusing to let society snuff us out is an act of rebellion.  In the words of Kanye West, “jokes on you, we still alive”.

Those queer people who do not live their lives as out and proud people are still rebelling. Those trans* people who live in stealth are still alive. Queer people are anywhere from four times to eight times more likely to have tried to commit suicide. Almost half of trans* people have tried. Those of us who are still here, breathing in the same air as our oppressors, are acts of rebellion.  We go against the very grain of what society expects of us. By refusing to fit into the perfect square cages, we are rebelling and we are winning.

In a way, these acts, one totaled, are not so tiny. These acts of rebellion are huge. An ocean of it, releasing wave upon wave of change, no matter how small. Rebellion does not have to be loud. It does not have to be angry, nor does it have to be passive. Rebellion has to demand change. Rebellion has to demand its rightful place. By living, we are demanding change and asserting our rightful place. As queer people, we are showing ourselves to the world. We are bearing out hearts in our existence and our lives. Every step we take is in the right direction, there is no backwards in life, just forward. Onward.