Queer Fest America benefits
Broadway Youth Center
Friday, Feb. 15 at 9 PM
2428 N. Western
Come and donate school supplies!
My access to healthcare has become somewhat of a mixed bag. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive insurance under my family for twenty-four years. Dental, check-ups, and even braces. But ever since I came out as queer and then as a trans woman, services have been hard to come by, and added to that, even more difficult now that I’m uninsured.
In the case of my local community, I am lucky. Here in Chicago we have a variety of transgender-friendly and women’s health providers: Howard Brown, Chicago Women’s Health Center (CWHC), and Northwestern come to mind as institutions that serve the LGBTQ community with respect, compassion, and care. One institution, though, the CWHC, I’ve found myself in a bit of a struggle with due to their oversight of trans women care.
The CWHC does great work for women, or at least those who were assigned female at birth. Yes, I get it—services fluctuate and non-profit health centers are constantly in need of money. It’s difficult to serve everyone with limited resources.
I mean, on a practical level it make sense, right? There’s an estimated 50.8% of the U.S. population that are cis women,¹ while only 2% (by “liberal” estimates) are transgender—and that includes trans men, of course. When comparing reproductive health between trans and cis women, it’s apples to oranges to kiwis, or something. The point is, all bodies are different, but the essential functions of cis women are the same, while, for trans women, it depends on surgery status, hormone levels, and generally how your transition has effected health risks and benefits.
However, we do not live in a practical society. And particularly feminist institutions don’t function on “provide the greatest good for the most people.” Feminists operate with a keen eye toward institutionalized oppression. That’s how feminist health centers got started in the first place, right? They saw the systemic exclusion and non-prioritization of women in a male-dominated field, medicine, and decided to change it—to make it more accessible to women, to give them agency, and to be treated (mainly) by other women.
So it may be a no-brainer that these services should be served to transgender people too. Not so much.
About a year ago, Chicago Women’s decided to provide hormone replacement therapy (HRT), testosterone, to trans men and transmasculine individuals—not to trans women and transfeminine ones. A year or longer ago than that, they began a trans gynecology program for this same gender group.
This makes sense on a couple levels. First, they provided expertise on gynecological service to cis women, so all you really need is some transgender 101 information to make sure transmasculine folks are comfortable doing this check-up. Secondly, and more interesting, is the historical tie between cisgender women, particularly queer cis women, and transgender men. There’s a whole other explanation why these communities are closer together than cisgender and transgender women.
First, there are community-based reasons. While no one knows exactly the “origins” of the queer-as-orientation-and-identity community, it mainly came from transgender folks (both trans women and men) and cis women. But mainly it grew out of and was claimed the cisgender lesbian community as more trans men / transmasculine folks came out.
Simply put, trans women have been so historically marginalized by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transmasculine communities (albeit in different ways and capacities) that we were never included with “queer” in mind. Hell, Silvia Rivera, a radical trans woman and one of the leaders of Stonewall, was banished from the “LGBT” community because people yelled at her “we don’t need any more drag queens in our movement.”
Second, there’s a more specific gender and sexual orientation explanation. Frankly, I believe a vast majority of lesbian and “queer” cisgender women, even those who will stand in solidarity with trans women’s rights, stray away from us sexually, romantically, and physically because of phallocentrism and something called “gender essentialism.”² This is very much a hang up from 1970’s second wave feminism.
But honestly, what does this all have to do with a small feminist health non-profit in Chicago? I think the larger issues of exclusion—historically, communally, intimately, sexually—have everything to do with receiving basic, comprehensive healthcare. Until cisgender women truly welcome trans women as sisters, partners, lovers, and feminists, this issue will remain a sore spot in the historical wedge between us.
So, the bottom line is that CWHC decided to provide services for trans men, including hormones, over that of other women: transgender women. Our shared history in women’s and LGBT communities informs why many “feminist” communities still favor those with a biologically-assigned vulvas over women who don’t. Hence how “women’s health” still does not mean all women. Women’s reproductive health means cisgender women’s health.
I don’t expect this to change overnight. I don’t expect everyone to think of trans women when they hear “women’s health.” I don’t expect CWHC to change overnight either.
But change does not happen by itself. I’ve organized a petition to push for comprehensive trans women’s health. “Equal access and equal care” must be the slogan. That is, if trans men can get gynecology exams, then we should have prostate exams. If you’re opening up testosterone hormone services, make sure you include estrogen as well.
We’ve all made progress so far. I’m pleased to see CWHC give an apology and start focus groups for transfeminine folksthat are finally happening. I encourage anyone who is transfeminine or trans female to give input on what your needs and our needs are.
Challenge women’s health institutions. Do it for all women, not matter what their “parts” are. Who knows, maybe in a few years we’ll have Planned Parenthood providing comprehensive care for all women everywhere.
Dear Mr. or Ms. Grad Student, I am sorry to report that I will not participate in your study as a data point. I don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish. I don’t trust you. I don’t like you. I don’t care if you succeed. In fact, I kind of think you suck. Here’s why:
What do you think you’re going to do for me? For us? For trans women? Do you think it makes a difference if you study the menstruation needs of trans guys? Or you study trans people’s partners’ self-declared sexual orientation? How about sexual practices and HIV? How about trans culture and SM, would that change my life? Would that change anyone’s life, except maybe to get you a few dates with some svelte transguy? Oh and a book contract, you might get a book contract. And your thesis getting approved could very well land you a post-doc or a teaching position somewhere, certainly aim you for a career… fuck you.
I’m sure you have self-serving justifications. Everybody has self-serving justifications, its how us humans get through the day. But I don’t care what they are. You aren’t the first, hell you’re probably not the first this week, and you probably won’t be the last to try to convince me that this particular topic, this particular project, this very one that you thought of, will change the world and make things better. Hell, I’ve probably helped as many non-trans people finish grad school as I’ve seen trans women friends commit suicide- let me think about that for a minute, both number in the dozens… and how many people have I seen go through grad school openly as trans women? None. Wait, no, one. No, two. Three? No, just two. Am I supposed to ignore that imbalance and keep pushing you wankers along?
Let me tell you something: trans people have already been studied. We’ve been interviewed, sampled, tested, cross-referenced, experimented upon, medicated, shocked, examined, and dissected post-mortem. You’ve looked at our chromosomes, our families, our blood levels, our ring fingers, our mothers’ medicine cabinets, and our genitalia (over and over again with the genitalia- stop pushing condoms on us, dumbass, we know what they’re for.) You’ve watched us play with dolls, raise children, fall in love, look at pornography, get sick, die, and commemorate ourselves. You’ve listened to our ears. You’ve listened to our fucking ears! But you’ve never listened to our voices and you need to do that now.
There are already studies about what trans people need. You want them? Go read the needs assessment Michelle O’Brien wrote for THAC in Philadelphia. Go look at the final report of the Sex and Gender Minority Subcommittee of the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness. Go read that amazing omnibus study the San Francisco public health department commissioned a few years back, the one that found trans women have an average monthly income of $536. Ever seen rents in San Francisco?
So what do people like me need? Not counseling. Not new labels on condoms. Not more doctoral candidates palpating our business. Trans women need, more or less in order: decriminalization, housing, education and employment. As in, not being swept off the street, not being banned from shelters, yes being allowed in GED classes, and, well, employment. Can you provide these? Not as a goddamn researcher, and probably not as a member in good standing of whatever professional body you aspire to join. You want to actually do something as good you say you want to do, drop out, abrogate your loans, and become a social worker. Decriminalization, housing, education and employment. You’d do better to hire one of us as a receptionist.
Oh sure, I’ll bet you can find some young trans woman, probably a year or two out of the closet, who will swear to you that if only she had hormones, if only she could get surgery everything would be okay. Its very sweet that you weren’t too intimidated to talk to her, but she’s wrong. There is not stealth horde of passing women waiting to claim the young after just one more hoop- we are who we are, and we are talking to you right now. Hormones are nice but they won’t make you employable. Surgery is great but it won’t get the cops off your back. Facial reconstruction won’t get you a lover. Decriminalization, housing, education and employment.
Y’know, a thought occurs to me. Everything on that list I keep repeating comes from somewhere else, didja notice? These aren’t problems caused by genitalia, or elongated ring fingers. These are problems caused by social conditions, by society, by the people who run the world around us who, funny, look a lot like you. Have you ever considered studying yourselves? Why do non-trans people have such a big fucking problem with us? Why do they care where we shower or whether their IRB sees us hanging around the computer center after hours? Why is it so damned important who we date, or, frankly, whether someone like you is dating one of us or not? Can you tell me that? Why not, Mr. or Ms. Big-Shot Researcher Who Wants To Do Something Good For The World? Too hard to do the… research? I’d love to see an fMRI series of psychology grad students watching a video in which attractive trans women explain to them that their proposal lacks… a bit of depth, maybe it could do with a more developed sense of social context perhaps? Come up with another draft by, lets say, the 16th, can we all meet again on the 16th? How does this essay make you feel: indifferent, mostly indifferent, somewhat indifferent, somewhat angry, or very angry?
And somewhere, I bet, there’s a trans guy wondering why people like you who want “to do work around trans issues” always seem to have so many FTMs as friends.
What trans people need is to get through a day without being inspected, not by the guy making change at the Wa Wa and not by the hipster with an academic stipend. We need data, ideas, plans and strategies, but we need to see them coming from people like us, people who don’t, right now, seem to make it into your little position of power. We don’t need your study, we don’t need your thesis, and we really don’t need you to graduate and “do good work.” And you? You don’t need us either. You are pretty much guaranteed a good life with or without my participation in your little project so please- stuff it up your ass. I say this will all the deference the circumstances warrant.
(Source: tagonist.livejournal.com, via the-real-full-metal-bitch-deact)
things have been going up and down.
i just got back from toronto where i attended the 2012 feminist porn awards. needless to say it was a fantastic experience and i’m super motivated to get more involved in ways of promoting feminist, queer, and trans-positive porn as a subversive activism. more on that later.
so the chicago women’s health center is putting together focus groups for transfeminine individuals. i’d encourage folks to get involved, even if you’re happy with services you already get or if you’re not interested in switching to to CWHC. our community needs more people to provide input, even if you’re frustrated or angry or just want to show up to be a part of the process. the call-in and appointment info is on the facebook event linked above.
i guess for me i’m happy about the movement. i’m sad this had to even occur – that unequal services were pitted against trans people of male/masculine and female/feminine shades.
that’s been the first reaction and the strongest – from trans men, some who i’ve known and some not, who i thought were my allies, telling me to quiet down, or that i’m just a shit-talker, or that CWHC has their heart in the right place so i have no reason to get angry.
i even read this little ditty on “call out culture.”
let’s fucking talk about call out culture.
there’s a difference when you’re using it as a tool, and an oppressed and marginalized person. there’s a difference between someone going off on your for misgendering you or using the wrong pronoun for the first time and institutionalized oppression. there’s a difference between talking about how transmisogynist this policy was to trans men and then have them flagrantly promote an institution as “trans inclusive” as it washes away the face of trans women at the same time – as it covers up the historical institutionalized schism between female assigned at birth people and transfeminine folks. no ego is to great to be called out for things that ought to be called out.
that said, and all in all, i am pleased with the movement. i am happy that things are on the move.
Today is my first tranniversary!
It’s been one year since I’ve started HRT. YAY!
To the Chicago Women’s Health Center:
We demand the following things:
1. A statement of apology taking responsibility and accountability for the historical exclusion of transgender women, transfeminine, and trans female people from your health services. This statement should explain why this “women’s” health center chose to prioritize services to transgender men, transmasculine, and trans male people over transfeminine-identified people. This statement should be readily accessed from the CWHC website.
2. Rewriting each line of “women’s” to be “cisgender women’s” where intended and/or applicable on the CWHC website.
3. A comprehensive plan to include services for transgender women that includes public and transparent benchmarks that may be easily accessed from the CWHC website. Those services include:
a. Feminizing Hormone Replacement Therapy
b. Trans prostate examination
c. Fertility awareness and/or options for trans female people
d. Continual education on the particularities of trans female-spectrum health issues
Failure to comply with and/or address such a comprehensive plan will result in the changing of the name of Trans Greater Health Project into Transmasculine Greater Health Project.
Furthermore, we encourage more community development and ties among the transgender women’s, transfeminine, and trans female community. Employing transfeminine-spectrum people to your staff would be encouraged.
Lastly, we encourage anyone supporting the CWHC and/or the Trans Greater Health Project to unabashedly, critically, and courageously point out the disparities between their transgender health services at the current state it is in.
Among the queer-identified community, many people opt in for polyamory. Yet many lesbians do not. Forget the U-haul jokes here, it’s just that it’s simply not commonplace for women to even consider it as a viable option.
I see the identification of polyamory, or non-monogamy, like I see the identities of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. Honestly, I believe some people are born poly, while a number of others may “choose” this path for relationships. That’s certainly not to say LGBTQ people choose their identities, but there is a certain coming out process where folks choose to be out or not in particular capacities with themselves and with others.
Poly folks are widely misunderstood, even among the LGBTQ population. In the era of where fighting for marriage equality is a cornerstone issue for lesbians and gays, polyamorous options usually get pushed to the wayside in favor of monogamy as a civil right. But I argue that acceptance and celebration of poly relationships fit the queer civil rights agenda.
By the time of this past Valentine’s Day, I found myself navigating several relationships and, in the process, myself. It has been an emotional and deeply fulfilling path, and it’s still no less important to my at-home partner and me.
I came out as polyamorous when I was 20 and, like virtually everyone poly or monogamous, it’s been a bumpy road finding balance and happiness. When I came out as bisexual, people told me I was just a sexual person, like that was the only reason I liked boys and gals. Well, I am not afraid to claim myself as a sexual person and a proud ethical slut. But my orientation and gender have little to do with how much intimacy and sex I desire.
My first poly relationship at 21 was sticky, especially since at the time I presented as male and wanted to be very fair, ethical, and feminist in my desires. This queer woman and I decided together to open up our once monogamous relationship, but rarely acted upon it. We kissed other people, we flirted, and we even had some joint, ahem, hook-ups, but we never crossed the threshold of either of us dating other people. And then there was the last month of our relationship.
I was really smitten with this other woman. We had hooked up before, a couple years ago. She went off to college, dropped out, hung out in California until breaking up with her boyfriend, and then there we were in the same town again.
My girlfriend didn’t want me to have sex with this other woman. We came to an impasse. I was about to move, I did not want to leave her, but it felt so important to be with this other woman at least for one night. One night together before I left.
Looking back on it, it wasn’t fair to my girlfriend at the time. We stayed together through it. We both regret how it went down. I also felt a little over my head navigating things where I really should have moved on.
And I did. I came to Chicago, left her, and have found many other relationships, big and small, with several people and have ended up living with my partner of a year and a half.
I’ve been also struggling to find how my relationships have changed since the beginning of my transition and coming out as a trans woman. I’m finding new attention on me, this new desirability from different queer people to be with me. It feels really great, validating, and humbling, but also strange. I feel like men in hetero relationships just don’t get the same flirtatious attention that women give each other. It’s special.
I still get butterflies in my stomach when I meet someone new that I really like. I feel happy that they show such tender affection toward me, and that I have a beautifully intimate support system that has webbed itself together.
I get really happy when I hear my at-home partner met someone new, got a phone number while we’re at a bar, or has a date coming up. It made me blush with happiness to see her at her birthday kiss a girl she’s been dating for a little while. I whispered to our friends, “that’s so hot!”
I’ve worked very hard to feel secure with myself, my independence, and my commitments to my partners. I love communicating. You really have to in order to be polyamorous.
Polyamory is certainly not perfect. Someone usually feels neglected at some point in time. Jealousy happens, even when you remind yourself how much that person loves you. Envy—feeling the pure frustration of someone else who seems to have people crawling all over them. And then the unfortunate reality that you have to prioritize people in your life, and it sucks feeling like number two or three. I’ve been on both sides of the equation.
But to me, monogamy seems to have the same problems twice fold. It’s the feeling of guilt of checking out others, a tired resignation of being with one person for the rest of your life, or the secrecy of emotions and desires where you can never be truly and wholly honest with your partner or spouse.
I know I do not take this for granted. I do not know of any polyamorous person who does. It is a wonderful tangle, an exchange, and something exciting.
So what did I do for Valentine’s? I sent a few messages to some partners and spent the whole day with my at-home partner and sweetie, Rosy.
This year, Swarthmore College’s Queer and Trans Conference Planning Committee is pleased to announce the theme for our 2012 conference: “Power, Pleasure, and Violence: A New Discourse of Bodies, Desire, and Sex”.
I had the excellent privilege this last week to fly out to Philadelphia…
GAW THIS SOUNDS SO LOVERLY :)
ps i love syd :D