Archive for November, 2011


Transgender Day of Remembrance

trans remembrance candleThis past week has exhausted the last of my energy reserves, both physically and emotionally, because of the work I’ve been doing.  For those of you that don’t know, Sunday was Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international day of memorial for those who have been bullied, harassed, abused and killed because of bias against gender non-conforming people.

It’s hard for me to fathom the kind of hatred and revulsion that would lead a person to attack another for the way that they express themselves, for they way they dress or how their body and brain’s conception of gender do not match.  And yet it happens EVERY DAY.  The statistics regarding harassment of trans and gender non-conforming people are staggering.  78% are harassed during their  K-12 years at school.   15% leave school because of this harassment.  41% attempt suicide at least once during their lives.  These are completely unacceptable.

And it’s pretty easy to get outraged, but then have nowhere to go from there.  It’s pretty easy to think of everyone that’s died and then go on eating your TV dinner, because really, what can you do?

So that’s what my week was about.  On Monday, two of our AU professors spoke about trans bullying and the way that we can erect safeAU Safe Space sticker spaces on our campus for people to go to if they feel they are being harassed.  The group that heard their message was small (about 20 people), but their message is good.  If those 20 people each tell one of their friends, and each of those 20 people tell one more, we’ve begun to spread the message outside of just our community of allies, and into the core of the “apathetic majority,” the ones that are often hurting trans and gender non-conforming people unintentionally, with their assumptions about gender, their lack of information and education, and occasionally, with their cruel words.  I truly believe that most of the people on AU’s campus (and in the world at large) do not harbor purposefully hateful feelings in their hearts.  They hurt others because they don’t understand, and the only way to fix that is to start reaching out.

On Thursday, we were out on the quad with signs, with petitions, and with our voices, confronting students with the unacceptable statistics associated with injustice against trans people.  We petitioned for an LGBT minor on campus.  We gave out pamphlets explaining the difference between sex and gender and explaining what trans issues are all about.  We got the bookstore to donate a TON of overstock to sell at a $5 or less garage sale to raise money for the Aiden Rivera Schaeff fund, a scholarship established by Dean Schaeff of AU’s college of Arts and Sciences to commemorate her son, Aiden, who came out as trans in high school and committed suicide shortly before turning 18 because of the bullying he endured.  Once the scholarship is endowed, it will go on to fund anti-bullying initiatives and to help any at-risk LGBT student with financial hardships.

AU A Capella Group On A Sensual NoteIn the evening, a huge portion of the school came together for an A Capella Concert in honor of Dean Schaeff, Aiden, and their scholarship fund.  All four A Capella groups from AU performed, and I’d like to think that we reached more than just allies at that event.  There were so many people there who might have never heard Dean Schaeff’s story otherwise, and never donated, never even cared about trans issues.  The courage, strength and composure with which Dean Schaeff told the story of her son’s life made me so proud to be a part of the trans equality movement, and I can only imagine how others were moved.  The music was beautiful, the atmosphere was light, and the change was tangible.

The last, the most difficult, the most important of our events was the Sunday Vigil for the victims of trans hate crimes.  Together, a small group of us lit 221 candles, read 221 names, and remembered 221 victims from this past year alone who have suffered the inequity of a murder due to transphobia.  The prayers and songs were moving, and they brought, for me especially, an incredibly amount of sorrow for the problems facing trans and gender non-conforming people.  These things sometimes seem insurmountable, and it is incredibly difficult to bear witness to so many needless deaths.  I was lucky enough to have an amazing, supportive group of friends through Student Government and Queers and Allies that were there with me, giving testimony, giving me strength, sharing their own love and support when I felt like I had no ground left to stand on.

rainbow candle with trans remembrance stamp on it

There are so many difficult things about Transgender Day of Remembrance.  How do we remember those who have died without collapsing into our own sorrow?  How do we remain hopeful and positive without trivializing the deaths of those who have brought us together?  How do we move on without forgetting?    I don’t think anyone has the answers to these questions, but we keep fighting, we keep remembering, we keep education until we figure it out.  For those of you who showed your support this week in any way- from a facebook status to a face at the vigil to a donation at an event- Thank You.  And for those of you who didn’t know, who forgot, who didn’t have time, who didn’t feel that they could, I hope that you add your voice to ours next year and everyday with your words and actions.

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Thank goodness for you wonderful people.  I am crazy busy because of Transgender Day of Remembrance (which I will write about shortly, because it’s super important), and thankfully someone stepped up to the plate with a blog entry for today.  Thanks again!

——-

Shibari Brain

Check out Geeky Kink's website!

For those of you not in-the-know, two weekends ago was The Geeky Kink Event- a smorgasbord of crazy, kinky workshops, games, geeky/nerdy comedy, burlesque shows, and play spaces.  Held out in the middle of nowhere, New Jersey (seriously, who calls a town Piscataway?), kinksters took over the entire Radisson hotel to inflict their madness.

There was Shibari Hangman, a tentacle chair, a Dr. Who Tardis with rings for rope bondage, Strip Twister, bacon brownies, and gratuitous amounts of cowbell.

As a not-so-kinky, not-so-geeky person, I will admit to feeling a little out of the loop during some of the events: I understood none of the references to Kingdom Hearts or Battlestar Gallactica and I was too timid to play in any of the dungeon spaces with random strangers.  But there were a number of things I realized during the weekend that are valuable to anyone, and make going to an event like this worthwhile, even if you have no desire to be tied up and flogged with a fire whip.

1. Radical body love.

People at Geeky Kink often made it a mission to walk around in as little clothing as possible.  Curvy women wore bellytops and short body loveskirts without worrying if the cellulite in their legs and belly would show.    There were men running topless and women who stripped down for demos in front of people they had never met before.  There were a lot of “non-classic” body shapes there- extremely thin, wiry men and fat busty women, but no one seemed to hesitate for a moment showing off exactly who they were.  And I’ll admit, it caught on.  I’m pretty happy with the way my body looks, and I do have a more classically-pretty figure, but even I can get anxious about certain areas when I’ve had too many cookies or haven’t exercised in a week.  But there was no anxiety at this event.  When the people at Shibari Hangman voted to have me suspended, I had to discard my corset and my skirt and stand in front of a 30 person audience in just my underwear while a rigger wrapped rope around my chest, legs and feet.

And you know what?  It was FINE.

I think everyone can learn from this kind of attitude.  No matter what kind of body you have, someone will love it and find it sexy.  And EVERYONE should be able to accept it.

2. Radical gender acceptance/ gender play

When the people at Geeky Kink were wearing clothes, they were rarely normal street clothes, and quite often did not match the gender you would associate with the person wearing them.  There were guys in high heels and beautiful Japanese gowns, girls rocking suits and ties, cross-dressers, transgendered people, the genderqueer, and every shade of gender in between.

Even when women dressed “feminine,” they did so in extreme, non-traditional ways.  There was renaissance garb, tight Victorian corsets, and Catholic school girl skirts.  All of these styles were worn as a way to play with the rigid expectations of our society about how men and women are “supposed” to dress.

It was pretty damn empowering.  Consider a 2,000 strong contingent of men and women saying “Fuck Gender Expectations.  I can dress slutty, and screw whether people think I’m respectable.  I can dress feminine, and screw whether people think I’m man enough.  I can wear (or not wear) whatever makes me feel good about myself and other people can just get over it.”

I LOVE THAT.

Geeky Kink is one of the few spaces where gender non-conformity is not just accepted, but embraced, glorified, and normatized.  It’s stranger to con attendees if you AREN’T rocking a crazy costume, dreads, or some curious mix-mash of unrelated clothing.  These things become normal only for a weekend, but it is the most all-encompassing, truly accepting

There are tons of other great things about the convention- like learning how to do fire-cupping and taking pictures with a life-size Tardis (no, unfortunately, it’s not bigger on the inside…but it does have rings for rope bondage!), and eating amazing made-to-order omelets at the hotel next door for breakfast, but I really just loved the freedom everyone had to be exactly what they wanted to be.  It’s pretty awesome, and awfully hard to come back home from.  I wish every place were as crazy accepting and unique as Geeky Kink.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in going next year.

Hey guys,

I have been le waaaaayyyy busy lately, so here’s something entertaining a friend forwarded to me.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2058921/Chris-Birch-stroke-Rugby-player-wakes-gay-freak-gym-accident.html

The headline for this charming piece of literature: “Burly rugby player has a stroke after freak gym accident… wakes up gay and becomes a hairdresser.” Apparently this isn’t a completely isolated occurrence. Another man from Malvern, Worcestershire had a similar stroke and woke up with the ability to paint with great detail and skill, even though he’d never learned before. I’ve read about a women of Pennsylvania dutch heritage that woke up after her stroke with the ability to speak fluent German, though she’d never studied it.

I’m no neuroscientist, so I can’t really explain why this happens, but its a fascinating phenomenon.

Stay cool, queer kids. And hang in there, another real entry will be coming this weekend.

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