Monday, May 31, 2010
Are office parties awkward? Do dress codes cramp your style? Does your genderfreaky resume turn your job search into an epic quest? Join us for a discussion about how gender impacts life inside (or leaves us outside) the workplace.
How does gender impact your job search or the way you are treated in the workplace?
Join us this Wednesday, June 2 for a group discussion at 7pm.
The Gerber/Hart Library
1127 W. Granville
Thursday, May 27, 2010
What are the stats?
Some readers may be thinking, “We all know people that are unemployed because of the economy. Why are trans people any different?” The overall unemployment rate has become a prevalent issue recently as it has climbed to %10. While statistics specifically addressing transgender employment are not available on a federal scale, there have been some local efforts to track this number, and experts agree that the unemployment rate among transgender and gender variant people is several times higher than the national average. A study in the San Francisco Bay Area conducted in 2006 of 194 transgender individuals found a 35% unemployment rate, with 59% earning less than $15,300 annually. Well before the recession began, in one of the most queer-friendly places on the country, the level of unemployment was more than seven times the amount of the general population (% 4.6). If you believe that discrimination plays a role in creating this inequality, then it is also reasonable to believe that the rate of unemployment in the trans community has more than doubled because increasing competition for jobs means employers have more discretion in whom they do and do not hire.
What’s the issue?
In one word—it’s complicated. Though employment does not take the spotlight in discussions of queer issues, it is one of the most persistent issues facing transgender and gender variant people, contributing to criminalization, homelessness, domestic violence, and HIV infection.
When pushed out of traditional employment, some transgender people feel they have few options but to engage in the black market economy or to stay in abusive romantic relationships in order to support themselves. Some people engage in sex work, while others resort to running scams or petty theft in order to meet their needs. Due to the illegal nature of these options, transgender people go on to be over-represented in prison populations, where sexual assault is rampant and HIV rates are 2 to 3 times that of the average population (according to Bureau of Justice Statistics). Not only does imprisonment and sex work increase the risk for HIV infection, but also, trans people who (either because they cannot afford medical care or because they do not have the necessary paperwork to access social services) buy hormones off of the streets often do not have access to clean needles. These issues all compound one another, often making it difficult for trans people to seek help or improve their situation.
How typical is this?
Many transgender and gender variant people experience significant periods of unemployment. Despite the dirth of research on the issue, anecdotal evidence would suggest that we get fired more often, are overwhelmingly more likely to experience harassment in the work place (for gender and/or for perceived sexual orientation regardless of one’s actual sexual orientation), and stay out of jobs longer than our cisgendered counterparts.
Transgender and gender variant people experience employment discrimination at every stage of our lives. A disproportionately high number of homeless queer people are gender variant youth who have been kicked out of their parents’ homes after disclosing their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Many go on to seek survival sex in order to secure basic needs such as housing and food. These youth often face insurmountable difficulty finishing high school and are discouraged from pursuing higher education due to lack of financial support. Older, more established people who come out as transgender often risk their families and jobs in doing so. While these people may be in a better position to take care of themselves financially than their younger counter parts, their employability may be more questionable because of age discrimination and gaps in experience (they often do not feel comfortable listing experiences or references prior to their transition if they are afraid of being outed).
People who do not pass for any variety of reasons (biological factors, the age at which they began transition, having a non-normative gender expression, etc.) are especially vulnerable to discrimination.
What’s my deal?
Motivated in part by the recent discussion of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and in part by my own five-month job search, I am launching my own investigation into employment issues and the trans community. While this piece is more of a primer, I plan to do more research and collect interviews from gender variant people that I will combine into an audio piece. By getting the perspectives of activists, trans community members, social services workers, legislators, and many others, I hope to reveal some of the more overlooked aspects of this pressing issue. I plan to create an audio documentary piece that I will submit to NPR’s Third Coast Audio Festival and will continue to post written articles on this blog. If you are interested in the project and/or are willing to share your experience with me, let me know by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for more information on ENDA as well as more specific information about the experiences of transgender and gender variant people in Chicago.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
We'll be holding events in the corner of the park near the intersection of California and North Ave.
This point is one mile South of the California Blue Line stop or one mile west of the Damen Blue Line stop (there are buses on both streets).
Monday, May 24, 2010
“… the use of any word for myself—lesbian, transperson, transgender, butch, boy, mister, FTM fag, butch - has always been/will always be strategic…”
-Dean Spade, in “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender,” Berkeley Women's Law Journal, Volume 18, p.15 (2003)
On May 17, I went to Sacramento with Transgender Law Center for the first ever California Transgender Lobby Day. I memorized a list of talking points and prepared to have three nearly-identical 15-minute conversations with three different representatives.
After a day of very thorough preparation for my first every lobbying adventure, I realized there was one question not yet answered. How was I supposed to introduce myself? We wanted our representatives to know that we were a group of both trans people and cisgender allies there to express our concern about issues of importance to our communities (including healthcare access, employment, mental health access for youth, and inclusive data collection). So of course we wanted to introduce ourselves by saying something about who we were and our relationship to the community.
At first I thought I’d say, “My name is Davey and I’m a transgender constituent ….” The problem with this straightforward approach is that people often get confused when I keep it that simple. If I say I’m transgender to someone who doesn’t really know any transgender people, they tend to assume I’m a trans woman. Oops.
The obvious alternative was to say, “My name is Davey and I’m a transgender man ….” The only problem with this is that it’s not true. I don’t identify as a man. The word transman itches me almost as bad as the word woman. Hmm.
Of course most legislators are unlikely to understand MtF / FtM, if only because acronyms are confusing.
What I’d like to say, if it has to start with, “I am a [one word identity],” is that I’m genderqueer. But that word does not go very far with legislators, or most people outside of trans communities. And, I reminded myself, we don’t need legislators to “understand” us, we just need them to do the right thing.
I decided to tell the legislators a label they could recognize, even if it wasn’t a perfect (or even good) reflection of how I understand myself. I bit the bullet and told them I was a transgender man. They seemed sympathetic to our requests. And after each meeting I quoted Dean Spade to myself: … the use of any word for myself … has always been/will always be strategic….
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Using public restrooms ever make you feel kinda poopy? Ever had to plead the fifth outside a bathroom stall?
Join us for a safe space conversation about toilets and all things gender-silly.
Affinity Community Services (57th and Woodlawn, Unitarian Church garden level)
Genderqueer Chicago is an open free community group, and anyone wishing to take part is considered family. Researchers and reporters are asked not to attend in professional capacity but may e-mail inquiries to email@example.com.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Dyke is not something they called me
on the playground in my pink knee-highs,
not what would have occurred to them -
my tormenters, who couldn't explain
how I was different, just that I was.
Even in Junior High, I blushed
in the locker rooms and shut myself
into a stall, worried my secret
would spill out somewhere in that cold,
metal room. But they made fun
of other things, did not know
the thoughts that kept me awake nights.
In high school, when boys pushed me
against lockers and bruised
my breasts, twisting them before
taking off down the hall in an eruption
of laughter - even then
they did not call me "dyke."
Thursday, May 20, 2010
-Duck Duck Goose
-Four square (we'll provide chalk and a ball)
-Tug of war (we'll provide the rope)
-water balloon toss
-dodge ball (Andy will help with logistics, but is looking for balls and a referee)
Here are some other activities that we'll have going on:
-KICKBALL TOURNAMENT at 2 PM
Hope to see you there! You can find the event on facebook here.
i want to learn to cook so i can find a good husband
i use the boys room and girls room 50/50
i have yet to find a bra that fits
i'm a shitty bitch
metal is even better because the boys have long hair
i wear boxers, for the support
i am proud of being an animal
my knees always have bruises
i like the pain of eyebrow tweezing and high heels
i collect vibrators
why do tattoos mean i'm a tough guy? i like being sensitive and emotional.
i can tell i'm more intensely emotional than most people
i want to feel the entire rainbow of possible feelings
i like it when people stare at me with confused faces
but sometimes i want to be invisible
i want to try every sex
i like the idea of dragging a razor all over my body. i understand why it's sexy.
there's no such thing as cross dressing
every clothes wearing is dress-up
i <3 anal
i masturbate at least twice a day
i don't fucking understand makeup
glasses are so sexy
i wish for a glock 26
i cry a fucking lot
i really would prefer honesty over the game
i want to tell you my feelings and i want you to tell me yours
i don't give a fuck if you like this band or not
i'm not afraid of strangers
i am afraid of pain
i try to fix my medical problems myself before going to the doctor
my pussy smells fucking delicious
wait... until that one i could be either
boy or girl
ok still could be either
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tomorrow morning from 7am-10am, Vocalo (89.5fm), a subsidary of Chicago Public Radio, will feature a story on gender queerdom with guest appearances by two Genderqueer Chicago organizers. Listen live at Vocalo.org or check out the blog later to hear a recording of the program.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Fear of doctor got you down? Lack of doctor got you down?
Whatever the reason, health care can be really complicated and stressful, especially if you're queer.
Join us for a safe space discussion meeting on health care and all things gender funny.
Wednesday, May 19 The Gerber/Hart Library (1127 W. Granville) 7:00pm- 8:30pm
Genderqueer Chicago is an free, open community group, welcoming anyone who wants to talk about gender or identity. Researchers and reporters are asked not to attend in their professional capacities but may contact firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries.
Friday, May 14, 2010
I wish I had something positive and uplifting to say about my experience of gender today, but I don’t. I realized today that I sometimes squash my own feelings and reactions because I just couldn’t cope if I let it sink in how f*cked up something was that someone said to me.
For example, a coworker said to me when I first started my job, “I’m glad to get the chance to work with you. I’ve never met a functional trans person.”
That’s what I didn’t/couldn’t do at the time. I ignored the comment, took it as well-meaning, revised it in my head to be less offensive, told myself the person didn’t mean it the way it sounded, and in general shoved it down somewhere deep inside me, out of sight.
Unfortunately, today it popped back up.
It makes sense to me that I deleted the interaction from my awareness. I mean, what would it be like to work with someone who thought that every single other person they had met who was like me was dysfunctional? What does that even mean? Defective? Disordered? Disgusting? Where could I go from there with that person? How could I not wonder how I measured up in their eyes, whether I still qualified as an exception, if they had changed their mind at any point about me being “functional”? How could I move forward?
How can I?
Thursday, May 13, 2010
They stared me down with an intense look. Not one of the intense looks that are meant to scare us. No, we were made of the same stuff; there were no scare tactics here. It was simply an intense look of concentration and an attempt to give a sober haircut after a couple of beers. The scissors snipped over my ears and little fluffs of recently dyed hair fell around my feet, the color matching the fur of the taxidermied animals around the room. They turned my head so I could see the sides of my hair in the mirror. “Is that short enough on the sideburns?”
“Yeah it’s good, keep it a little longer in front and don’t forget to shave up the back.”
“Alright, I know what I’m gonna do.”
I grinned. Biting my lip a little I considered the perfect moment that was happening around me. My friends and I have a habit of collecting perfect moments and this was one to remember. I can see the shot perfectly in my head; it’s a side effect of being an art kid with a video obsession. The black tuft of their Mohawk highlighted their forehead. Their eyebrows were down in focused concentration eyes sliding sideways back and forth checking the lengths of my own tuft above my forehead, which was becoming more and more visible. Below their intense eyes a nose ring twinkled silver as they bit their lip still determined to be sober. Curled around the back of their neck was the rat tail in which they held all of their magic, or so they said; and so I believed. Below, the muscles of the arms stretched toward my head out of the cut off sleeves of their yellow t-shirt. Arm hair poked out of the sleeve holes and that was the final part of the perfect picture.
Somewhere in the other room RuPaul played softly, the party rumbled on around us, and in the bathroom down the hall an incredible compatriot was passing on all their wisdom in a haircut. Just as Jess Goldstein’s friends cut their hair in Stone Butch Blues and just as Brandon Teena’s friend cut his hair in the beginning of Boy’s Don’t Cry. A haircut is a gift. It’s a passing on of knowledge that says, “Survive the bad times and have a Hell of a good time during the good times.” It says, “Don’t worry about what other people say because you have all of us.” It says, “If anything bad happens just call me and I’ll drive to Cincinnati within fifteen hours no matter where I am in the country.”
“There you’re done. How’s that?” They answer their own question, “Looks good. Looks older.”
My friends who were watching agree. I just grin, “It’s great.” I say. And in my mind I am happy with how perfect this moment is, and how it’s the last night I’ll spend in this house, and how much I will appreciate everything they have done. I walked out into the kitchen and Knox smiled and said, “Hey did Fran just cut your hair? Ace cuts mine.”
I grinned. I was right, a haircut is a gift. The best. Thank you.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
I recently commented to a friend that it’s funny how girly most of my friends are. She didn’t think it was funny. At all. She almost seemed offended as she responded that it’s good to have friends who are different and to not have only friends who are like me. I, by the way, am not girly. Or rather, I’d like to pretend that I’m not. I’m working against twenty-plus years of socialization to be a woman, and it’s not easy, but I definitely don’t see myself as a woman.
I think that she either missed my point, or I just didn’t do a very good job of making my point clearly. Actually, nearly all of my friends are very feminine. Nearly all of my friends are women, for that matter. And neither of those things is bad. I love my friends. I have nothing against femininity or women of any kind.
The real problem is not that I have friends who are different from me: it’s that none of them are like me. In a crowd of women in dresses and heels, hair and makeup carefully done, I feel like the odd one out--you know, one of these is not like the others. I feel like I don’t fit in--or, perhaps worse, that I do. I am not a woman, and I don’t want to be seen as one.
Although most of my friends are not ultra-feminine, never-leaves-the-house-
It’s really not actually that bad. My friends are supportive; it’s just a passive kind of support at times. They all took it well when I came out as trans and not identifying as a woman . . . but no one uses my preferred pronouns. They tell me I look nice when I dress up in my boyish best . . . but they don’t help when I’m stressing over what to wear (the general response is something along the lines of, “It’s not a big deal, just pick something--pants and a shirt?”).
I love my friends, but I wish at least one of them understood where I’m coming from. I wish I had a friend I could rely on to correct people on my pronouns. I wish I had a friend to go clothes shopping with, one who’d help me find masculine/androgynous looks I could pull off. I wish I had a friend with whom I could discuss which binders work best and whether I want to have top surgery or go on T, now or ever. I wish I had a friend who would celebrate with me when I managed to achieve flat lines and disguise my body. I wish I had a friend who would help me as I pick out a new name. I wish I had a friend who’d understand why I feel defeated when I get called one of the “ladies” at a restaurant or when I get directed to the women’s fitting room in a store and turned away from the men’s fitting rooms. I wish I had a friend who would realize that that the highness of my singing voice makes me so uncomfortable sometimes that I can hardly stand it. I wish I had a friend who would notice that I flinch every time I’m called “she.” I wish I had a friend who accepted that I’m trying to deflect attention away from my chest, that I don’t want to be called “pretty” or “cute,” that revealing, feminine clothing is drag for me. I wish I had a friend who would support me when I get apprehensive, even if I’m irrationally so, around frat boys or cops or anyone who looks like a gender defender--a friend who would understand that after all the research I did for my thesis, after all of the reading I’ve done personally, I have reason to be on guard. I wish I had a friend who would support me through this all, one who’d understand why I have to/want to do it. I wish I had a friend who understood why I think it’s funny that my friends are so feminine.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Alex: Have things gotten better since you first started being trans?
I remember you were so overwhelmed with switching pronouns and junk.
it's like a tradeoff
Alex: ja it has gotten better?
me: On the one hand i'm more free and there's more fun and there's
this amazing queer community and the kind of friendships and freedom
i've always wanted.
On the other hand i'm even more incomprehensible to squares and
closed minded people and i feel even more alienated from normals.
Alex: being alienated from normals bothers you?
me: well yeah dude
i don't know
Alex: YOU'RE AN ALIEN
me too kinda
me: like people on the train pull their kids away from me and tell
them not to look at me
so like i'm "not child friendly" anymore i guess
people don't want their kids to know about transpeople, and queers
Alex: THAT SUCKS
i wear shirts around with naked body parts on them every day almost
so i think it's funny when parents are like that
but that's so sad
when did this happen?
me: i don't know, i guess whenever people started recognizing me as trans
there are small changes with certain people and our relationships
me: like Gordon and Ellie... don't like me as much
me: other ppl, i've gotten closer to
Alex: if you could change anything you did, would you?
me: i don't know, i haven't done anything
me: oh you mean like changing my name?
i changed my name and stopped policing my gender expression
i experimented with pronouns but ultimately decided it's not worth
the effort and i'm not gonna push the issues (though those who pick up
on my intricacies largely use he/him or ze/hir or they, which i like)
i found out that when i'm not "trying" to spin my gender a particular
way i feel most comfortable with masculine gender attributes, though not 100%.
my only problem with my body is other peoples' tendencies to think that
having a female body means i'm a lady
me: i don't try to pass as anything
Alex: i like this attitude.
me: but yeah it's really pretty simple
trans not so scary :)
Alex: no, it's cool
Monday, May 3, 2010
Whether you're a bookworm, a movie buff, or a TV enthusiast, it's hard to escape gender images in the media. How is gender represented in popular media and how do you relate to those imagines? What would you like to see represented more? Less? And how can we create our own media that represents a spectrum of gender expression?
Join us for a discussion and some serious strategizing at our safe space meeting:
Saturday, May 1, 2010
“Hey—hey you! Where do you go to school?”
Caught. That’s how I feel any time someone talks to me on public transit. I’m used gritting my teeth beneath the genderfreak spotlight—at this point, any confrontation hits me square in the jaw and sends me reeling back to safety in the ever-present book in my lap.
But this question seems harmless enough, so I turn. Two black teenagers slump in the seat behind me: a girl with hair dyed so many hues of orange that it looks like her head’s on fire, a boy with a too-big leather jacket thrown over his shoulders. These kids are Punk Rock with a capital P and they know it—their fashion sense reminds me of my high school femme punk heyday. I check out the safety pins jammed in their pierced ears and grin.
“Where do you go to school?” The boy speaks for the two of them—it’s clear that the question is a product of some mutual whispering.
I don’t know why he’s asking, but I tell him anyway.
“Oh damn, you’re in college? We figured you were in high school.”
“Yeah, I know. I look young.”
“We thought maybe we knew you or something.”
He pauses. With the first question he was just making headway, smalltalking me up so he could drop the real bomb.
“So…what are you?”
I was waiting for that one. Boygirlboygirlboygirl. They scan my face for an answer. I feign ignorance.
“What do you mean?”
The flaming-haired girl finally pipes up.
“He sure talks white.”
I’ve gotten so used to having my gender up for debate that I’m not expecting this kind of confrontation. They play Name That Race until the boy consults me once again.
“For real, what are you?”
“I don’t really know.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know? Are you white or not?” The girl is the one talking now, frustrated by my ambiguity.
“If I told you that one of my distant relative were black, what would you call me?”
The question I sling back at them puts the ball in their court once again. The banter continues.
“He looks white. He’s white.”
“But he’s got black family. I thought he was Hispanic or something.”
“No beard—no way.”
This acknowledgment triggers something in the girl’s head—I can see the wheels turning in her fiery hair as she scans my face, then my chest, checks out my shoes with a quick glance back to my jawline, just to be thorough. Bolder now, she starts slinging the questions.
“Are you a girl?”
“I don’t know,” I say for the second time.
“Listen to the voice. It’s a girl.” The boy is certain.
A flush of embarrassment creeps across his face. “Whoa, I just called you ‘it.’”
“Yeah, that’s not cool. I’m a person, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah. I just…I don’t know what you are, so I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s ok. I usually say ‘they’ when I’m not sure.”
He nods, thinks for a moment. “I get that.”
“So are you a girl?” His friend is still milking her newfound audacity for all it’s worth.
“Does it really matter?”
She pauses. “Huh. No. Guess not.”
Her abrupt acceptance totally checks me on my assumptions—I didn’t expect a high school student to so easily discount the gender binary that I had to read academic theory to break.
The El rolls up to my stop, and I move towards the door.
“I just can’t tell,” she says again, desperate for an answer before I slip away. “You look like a girl, but you’re talking to us like you’re a boy.”
“Sometimes people seem like one thing and turn out to be something you wouldn’t expect.” I swing my backpack over my shoulders and exit onto the train platform. I hear the boy’s final comment on my way out.
“I told you he was black.”
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