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.

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Fire Fighting Fire

Fire is destructive. Fire is consuming. Fire is all encompassing. Fire utterly destroys and devastates. When you complain about people fighting fire with fire, you are complaining that people are fighting destructive forces. It implies that, like the fire we are fighting, it consumes and destroys. It implies that the fire we are using has the power to utterly destroy at a massive scale. It doesn’t. At most, you get a burnt fingertip, like when you snub out a candle with your fingers, or you touch a too hot tea cup. We are not fighting fire with fire, we are fighting a blazing inferno named society with lawn sprinklers, the kind kids play in.

We are using these sprinklers to clear out whatever small semblance of safety we can claw together for a brief time, because as fire does, it intrudes and forces its way back in, only to engulf that space once more. We are clawing through the ash in an attempt to make a small comfortable bed among the rubble. It’s us trying to make this burning building somewhat comfortable for a mere second. Even if we all grabbed buckets and pails, fighting this fire together, our numbers would not be enough. Our efforts are but small and useless in comparison to the raging inferno we are facing. You don’t try to put out high rise with buckets and pails. You need more force, you need more power.

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Southern Poverty Law Center: TERFs are a hate group

Recently a petition was posted online on Change.org asking for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to list Gender Identity Watch as a hate group. For those who are unfamiliar, the SPLC lists active hate groups across the United States as well as tracks hate movements. Gender Identity Watch is a website owned and run by Cathy Brennan, and other notorious TERFs. This site, along with several others, posts trans women along side rapists and murders. Writer note: I do not link to GIW and so on because they IP log in order to harass and stalk.

The SPLC responded to the petition, signed by over 7,000 people, saying they were unable to list Gender Identity Watch as a hate group because it fails to match their definition of a group. While a shaky response, it is the response that was suspected, considering that the owner of the group, Cathy Brennan, has been used as a source for the SPLC before. This response falls a part under critical evaluation for several reasons, one including the fact that Gender Identity Watch is a part of a much larger group of websites (such as Pretendbians) that actively attack trans* people, especially trans women. Also, the website is also just a poster child for an even bigger problem within the community, something that creates these websites and vicious trans*phobia, transmisogyny, and cissexism, Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs).

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Dear Cis People

Let’s talk about the word cisgender (and it’s abbreviation cis) and the discussion of cis people and their reactions. If you are cis, I suggest you read this post for it’s entirety. The links provided are there as more evidence and support of the reality that trans people face in their lives when it comes to how society perceives and treats them. These are meant to remove any doubts of the points I bring up in this piece. I would also like to ask for the duration of this piece that swallow your emotions and personal feelings about the topics discussed until the end. If you cannot do this, this piece is not for you.

Trigger warning: violence, transphobia, cissexism, transmisogyny, homophobia, rape, violence, slurs

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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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Trans 101: Misconceptions

There are a ton of misconceptions, incorrect facts, half-truths, and a myriad of other problematic information about trans people floating around in the media, academics, word of mouth, and so on. In fact, these misconceptions are often perpetuated by mainstream media and academia. For example, Orange is the New Black which is touted to be extremely positive towards its portrayal of trans people with its trans woman character, Sophia, has its problems. Sophia has had bottom surgery and has been on hormones for a while, I will not spoil any of the plot, but the show ends up showing Sophia sprouting chin hairs and experiencing breast shrinkage due to issues accessing hormones in prison. Neither of these actually happen to trans women who have had some form of bottom surgery. However, the show incorrectly shows Sophia experiencing secondary sex characteristics that are typically male due to her lack of hormones. While minor, these types of misinformation plague the trans community and society at large, creating a lot of confusion and misconceptions about trans people, transition, and their lives.

I am going to dispel some of these misconceptions and misinformation throughout this piece. I have split it into three parts:  Identity/Sexuality, Surgery/Transition, and Choices/Binary/Enforcement. There will be things that fit into several or all the categories. I picked the best category I felt for each option.

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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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A Review of Transmisogyny Embodied: Cathy Brennan

Trigger Warning: Trans*phobia, transmisogyny, cissexism, rape, assault, violence, harassment

On Sunday, October 27th, Cathy Brennan was a guest star on Roseanne Barr and Kathleen Wells’ talk show. This was of course in regards to Brennan’s stance on trans* rights, especially trans women. I decided to take a listen and see what this show was going to be all about, a “know thy enemy” type of deal. I do want to mention that this is my own personal review, feelings, and analysis of the show. I will try to go in chronological order of events as they happen in the show, with commentary woven throughout. I will mention some things out of order as they may tie into the current discussion. This is because Brennan’s thinking is very circular and repetitive due to her simplistic understanding of gender and trans* people.

The show is opened with Barr saying she was away for a meeting with a friend. This meeting was for a conspiracy theory involving the US government using mind control on its citizens as well as enslaving people as spies. Good way to open a show with a guest star who is obsessed with the conspiracy that trans women are forcing lesbians to have sex with them, among other ridiculous claims, but more on that later. I’ll be honest, I did not pay attention much to this section as it was of no interest to the reason I was listening to the show.

After they introduce Brennan, they talk about her history involving her activism with LGBT rights. She includes trans* people in this because at the time the “trans* community was very small” (this was early 2000s) and they were not pushing much for rights. She goes on about how she was active in even passing legislation for trans* non-discrimination policies. This was because she believes that gender and gender stereotypes are damaging and inherently oppressive. Brennan wants for the abolition of gender in its entirety since it is a system of oppression, specifically aimed at women (mainly cis women). Brennan mentions how damaging stereotypes are, yet is a person who holds trans women to gender and sexual stereotypes. Brennan believes that trans women uphold gender stereotypes by simply existing since according to her, all trans women embody female stereotypes and are hyper feminine beings.

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“Won’t Someone Think of the Children!?”

Warning: This post is dripping with sarcasm. Like, high levels that might be toxic.

“Defendant Toone denied Ms. Joganik’s request and stated that he did not want Ms. Joganik to wear female clothing in the park because ‘there are children around the pool’”. Children around the pool, won’t someone ever think of the children? When it comes to queer and trans* people, this is something that is played like a broken record as a reason we should never be visibly queer. What if some poor, hapless, innocent child sees these queer people? What will the kid think? How will it affect them?

The answer to this question is easy, it won’t. Most children that these parents are trying to protect are small infants or toddlers, many of whom won’t even remember the incident 10 minutes later. The worst the parent will get is “why is that ‘man’ wearing a dress?” or something of that nature. The simple answer is, “because they are a woman, not a man”. Most kids will take this and be done. If they are at that age where they play the why game for hours, it’s pretty simple to turn it around. Well, why are you a boy/girl/whatever?

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Silence Kills

“Your silence will not protect you.” -Audre Lorde

This is a button I hold very dear to my heart. This button is sandwiched between two others of equal importance. Above it, “You can’t expect change if you hide who you are” and below it a button simply stating “Tell Your Story”.  These buttons are together for a reason, a very important reason. Silence enables. Silence oppresses. Silence kills.

I’ve written about the need for trans* narratives due to how diverse the trans* community is. I’ve written about how schools are unsafe for queer students, and I’ve written about how the media portrays trans* people inaccurately. However, there is a trend among all these things that I have not yet written about, and that is silence.

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Borderline Personality Disorder and My Experiences

Trigger Warning: Trans*phobia, cissexism, assault, self-harm, suicide

Queer and trans* issues are the forefront of what I write about. These are huge factors in my life and my life goals, so it makes sense I spend a great deal of time talking about them and their impact on me and others. While I do not try to hide the fact I am mentally ill, I do not generally write or openly talk about it. I feel like I need to change this. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Some of you may have heard it from the news or TV shows, often in an extremely negative light. Those with my mental illness are portrayed as serial killers, mass murderers, criminals, and sociopaths. People with Borderline are almost never displayed in a good light. That is why I was through the roof when I found out that one of my trans* role models, Kate Bornstein, also had Borderline.

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Words Matter: The Effects of Bullying on Queer Youth

There are very few people who have not heard the age old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. However, as the problem of bullying comes into the mainstream a very different picture is being painted. Words do hurt, in fact, they can cause severe harm to people. Words are some of our most important weapons against others. Bullying is a severe problem in today’s society, especially against queer youth. Queer in this paper is used as an umbrella term to mean non-heterosexual and non-cisgender youth (Mogul, Ritchie & Whitlock, 2011). Cisgender is used to define people whose gender and assigned at birth sex/gender match. This is the opposite of transgender which means that one’s gender identity and assigned gender/sex do not match. They is also used as a gender-neutral pronoun due to transgender identities that exist outside of the male/female binary (Stevenson, n.d.).

Projects such as the It Gets Better Campaign by Dan Savage attempt to address these issues and give hope, yet ignore addressing the problem at its core. Projects like the It Gets Better campaign focus on telling youth to hold on instead of trying to eliminate a climate of intolerance and hate that many youth face in their lives. For queer youth to feel accepted, we need to work on the root of the problem instead of just focusing on getting them through the more traumatic experiences of grade school. This includes getting parents, teachers, and other school staff involved and educated on the adversity their students face for being queer or being perceived as queer. For many, the bullying starts in elementary school and continues all throughout their lives (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012). This means that programs that focus on education and prevention need to be started at younger ages and needs to be continued throughout the educational career, for both students and staff.

While queer youth experience more than just verbal harassment in numbers much higher than their non-queer peers, this paper will focus on verbal harassment and the lasting effects it has (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012). Verbal harassment is much more frequent than any other form of harassment since words are much easier to use and have fewer repercussions than the use of physical or sexual assault. Words are not harmless and can leave lasting problems when continually used as weapons against queer youth. Bullying, especially verbal harassment, is a serious issue inside of schools for queer youth that can leave lasting negative impressions and is a problem that needs to be addressed at the core and actively worked against and prevented.

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