12 Ways To Celebrate Trans Day of Visibility Year Round

If you didn’t know, today is Trans Day of Visibility, started in 2010 by Rachel Crandall and now spearheaded by Trans Student Educational Resources. Unlike Trans Day of Remembrance, a day of mourning, this is a date for celebration, recognition, and honoring. 

The Theme For This YeaR’s TranS day of VisibilitY:

trans day of visibility

 

We need more than representation, more than just people seeing and recognizing trans faces. Show your support for trans people of all stripes year round. Think of how you can be an advocate for trans rights in the day-to-day, especially in alliance with trans folks experiencing the intersections of White supremacy, misogyny, ableism, classism, and other forms of systematic discrimination. How can you interrupt when people misgender your friends, lovers, colleagues, family-members? How can you educate yourself and others about gender identity and expression? How can you support trans people around you in concrete ways? And though this list is, in many ways, written for a cisgender audience, a bunch of the things here also apply in cross-trans-identity solidarity and celebration. So regardless of your identities, I invite you to keep reading.
 

Here are Twelve Ways You Can Start To work on This:

1. Uplift trans-focused organizations like Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Casa Ruby LGBT Community Center, The Audre Lorde Project, the Transgender Law Center, the TransLatin@ Coalition, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the TransWomen of Color Collective, and many more (including this excellent list of trans Native and two-spirit organizations).

2. Practice using pronouns beyond she/her/hers and he/him/his with this fantastic website. If you’re wondering what you say when you ignore people’s pronouns and don’t respect people’s identities, this comic and this infographic explain it perfectly.

3. Read amazing articles centered on trans experiences and stories, and particularly those written by trans women. I’ve linked to the exceptional work from Autostraddle here, and I also post a bunch of trans-related stuff on my personal Tumblr which you can peek at here.

4. Fight the slew of “bathroom bills” and related legislation that seeks to dehumanize, hurt, endanger, and systematically disadvantage trans people. You can find a recent list of them here. If you live in the following states, there are some bills you should be paying attention to: Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Tennessee, Washington.

5. Remember LGBTQ history and commit it to memory. Learn the names of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Storme Delarverie, Raymond Castro, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and so many more trailblazing trans people.

6. Support trans people in ways that acknowledge value and experience beyond the label of trans. In other words, if you only care about trans people and talk about trans people in the context of trans-ness, you’re doin’ it wrong. Trans people are rappers, nurse practitionersfilmmakers, attorneys, activists, porn performerspoets, doulas, researchers,  multimedia artists, legislators, schoolteachers, performers, indie game developersnews reporters, authors, mixed martial artistsNavy SEALstattoo artists, sex educators, storytellers, and more. Being trans is part of being a whole complex human with varied identities and experiences, not the totality of what someone is or can offer the world!

7. Buy educational resources like Scenarios USA’s amazing curricula on Black femmes titled “What’s the REAL DEAL about Love and Solidarity?” written by Bianca Laureano, The Gender Book, and The Teaching Transgender Toolkit by Eli R Green and Luca Maurer. These can help you educate yourself and others! You can also consider donating them to local school, libraries, or community centers.

8. Share resources about trans and trans-related identities in other languages and from non-Anglo-U.S.-centric perspectives. I compiled a bunch of resources for Spanish-language trans information, for example.

9. Observe Trans Day of Remembrance, Trans Day of Visibility, Trans Day of Resilience, and other relevant dates and celebrations.

10. Interrupt instances of transphobia, cissexism, and cisnormativity. When people are actively misgendered, when LGBT events don’t actually include trans people, when trans women’s voices are overshadowed (including by trans men), when discussions of police brutality don’t include trans people, when people in positions of power refuse to use someone’s pronouns, when people randomly ask trans folks invasive questions, when trans people are stereotyped in casual conversation, when someone’s trans identity is the butt of a joke, the list goes on. Take action.

11. Soak in the amazing creative work featuring trans people and/or made by trans people. Here are some places you can start: DARKMATTER‘s poetry, the amazing children’s books by Flamingo Rampant Press, “To Survive on This Shore” which focuses on older transgender and gender-variant adults, Micah Banzant’s art for #TransLiberationTuesday, the Trans Day of Resilience Art Project by varied artists, a collaboration between Liz Andrade and Dani Weber on the latter’s “Journey to Femme Power” as a genderqueer person, “Vírgenes de la puerta” showcasing trans women in Peru, the GLAAD trans microaggressions photo project, the “Assigned Male” webcomic,  and so many more I can’t even list them all here.

12. Move beyond thinking of trans people as all being “people born in the wrong body who just want to be like cisgender men and women.” The trans umbrella is way more varied than that. Learn about nonbinary trans people (including the varied celebrities who have described being nonbinary in some way) as well as those fitting other labels within and adjacent to the more “well-known” understandings of transness, such as genderqueer.

Orgasm Justice: Are You Entitled To Climax?

Header image source: Getty Images / Mic

If you’re a woman and listen to Nicki Minaj and Amy Schumer, sounds like you should be! But is there more to the story? Read on to find out. My colleague Rachel Kramer Bussel wrote a piece on orgasmic parity and interviewed me for it, where she explained the impetus for the article:

Recently, both Nicki Minaj and Amy Schumer have come out swinging for “orgasm equality”—namely, that when a woman has sex, especially with a man, she is entitled to an orgasm. Minaj declared in Cosmopolitan’s July issue, “I demand that I climax. I think women should demand that.” Schumer told Glamour in the August 2015 issue, “Don’t not have an orgasm. Make sure he knows that you’re entitled to an orgasm.”

It’s a great article that raises many valuable points, including how some people use orgasm as a bargaining chip or power-play tool, and I’m so glad I was able to contribute to it. Alas, as often happens,  I had way more to say than could fit in someone else’s article, and so here’s an expansion on my thoughts, beyond what got used.

Orgasms: What Do The Numbers Say?

orgasm gap

Jessica Valenti, in an article defending “orgasm equality” and Nicki’s words, gave us the scoop:

According to the Kinsey Institute, while 85% of men believe that their partners had an orgasm during their last sexual experience, only 64% of women report actually having one. And the Cosmopolitan’s Female Orgasm Survey this year shows that only 57% of women climax regularly with a partner. Those numbers change a bit depending on who women are having sex with though – a 2014 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that lesbians had a nearly 75% orgasm rate.

Men across the sexuality spectrum, however, all reported around an 85% orgasm rate, and another study shows that 75% of men report always having an orgasm during sex. Every. Single. Time.

Nicki And Amy’s Rx For Orgasm: Too Prescriptive?

I bristle at most definitive statements about how people should exist in the world. Whenever I hear “always” or “never,” it sends up red flags in my brain because those words usually erase a lot of nuance and variability of human experience, and often go hand in hand with oppressive ideas. I can’t help but eye-roll when people, especially professionals and/or media darlings who have big platforms, use prescriptive language about how people should be having sex  or perpetuate the assumption that everyone WANTS to be having sex in the first place. Still: that doesn’t mean Minaj or Schumer’s comments are entirely off the mark or unimportant.

I believe that Nicki Minaj is speaking from a place of seeing societal orgasm disparities and trying to resolve them in her own life, then, at its core, giving advice to others to not put up with inconsiderate partners [particularly men] who demand orgasm but do not reciprocate. That’s the key message I think people should take away from her comments. I see her speaking from a place of empowering women, even if she isn’t doing it in the most nuanced or inclusive way, and suspect that’s also because she wasn’t giving a manifesto on the matter, but instead briefly commenting on it. The people criticizing her for being “demanding” or “not caring about the man’s feelings” are missing the point AND also contributing to harshly judging the words of women of color, and especially Black women, who are already culturally presented as “loud and angry” for even existing.

Honestly, I care less about if Nicki self-identifies as a feminist or somehow embodies “perfect feminism” for all [coughrespectabilitypoliticscough] and more about what she says and does, and what we can learn from her that supports our personal visions of feminism—and there is a LOT there to work with. As scholars, educators, sexuality professionals,  activists, whatever: our work shouldn’t be to undercut Minaj, but instead further nuance her statements and get at their roots rather than a superficial understanding, especially if we want to reach the people she’s talking to.

Similarly, Schumer speaks about body positivity, being deserving of love regardless of size, introducing partners to the marvels of the human clitoris, and not letting dudes get away with just ignoring her pleasure. But her entitlement isn’t exactly the same as Nicki’s stance that women demand orgasms, and Schumer’s feminism often lacks a critical race analysis  that Minaj consistently brings to the table. In fact, Schumer has shoved her foot deep in her mouth around racial matters various times and excused some of her actions by holding steadfast to her “feminist” label. Is Nicki perfect? Of course not. But as far as I know she’s not pretending that her feminist cred exempts her from messing up.

amy-schumer-race

Entitlement: Revolutionary, Oppressive, Or Both?

The idea of ensuring women’s pleasure without an underhanded agenda is a radical idea, period. Even the heading for the Cosmo article where Nicki was interviewed—that calls her demands for orgasm “high maintenance”—shows why such demands can be revolutionary in a society that teaches women to be servile; the idea of women putting their pleasure at the forefront and on equal footing to men’s is seen as “too much.”

Especially for women of color, and particularly Black women, that message is key in a society that also exploits our sexuality and makes us objects much more than subjects. Heck, this also connects to age and ensuring that sexually active young women learn how to achieve or at least communicate about orgasms from early on instead of wasting precious years of sexual encounters being too timid, uneducated, unempowered, or whatever to navigate those waters. [That said, I’m not saying it’s young women’s fault that society does a terrible job with sex education or empowering us.]

From a feminist standpoint, demanding orgasms makes sense. “We’re here, we’re horny, and we want to come!” But which women are doing the demanding and which women are prevented from doing so?

In a White supremacist society that hypersexualizes women of color and gives more overall bargaining power to White women regardless of how sexual they are assumed to be, Schumer’s call to be entitled comes from both her body-positive feminism as well as her Whiteness. For both Nicki and Amy, this also intersects with their able-bodied-ness. For women with physical disabilities, who are often desexualized entirely or fetishized by select groups of the population, being entitled to climax with partners intersects with a host of other issues, including mobility concerns and worries about not being able to even enter a partner’s house if it’s not accessible. [Check out the work of Robin Wilson-Beattie with SexAbled, Bethany Stevens with Crip Confessions, and Shanna K. (as well as her peer-reviewed papers) if you’re curious about that!] For Millenials [shout out to my generation!] who are already billed as “spoiled brats” or “lazy and entitled” people who “haven’t paid their dues yet,” demanding better sexual encounters also operates at an interesting crossroads of identities, including age.

So while there can certainly be strength in entitlement, as well as the ensuing action when things aren’t up to snuff, we must not ignore the structural barriers to being able to demand orgasms and the reasons why some people find it waaaaaaay easier to be entitled than others. In short: if we truly want life, liberty, and orgasms for all [who want them], we need to do a lot of social justice work, not just generic sex ed and feminist action.

Is Orgasm Equality Where It’s At?

As was mentioned by other sexuality professionals in the Bussel article, people’s understandings vary in regards to how orgasms happen in the first place, who is responsible for whose orgasms, the value of orgasms vs. the overall sexual journey, and if one can ever truly “give” someone an orgasm or if a better word is “facilitate.” Because of that variability, I don’t really care to focus on the “should you be entitled?” question once I have your attention. I’ll even let you in on a little secret: I actually don’t believe in orgasm equality. I think it misses the mark.

What do I advocate for instead? I believe in striving for pleasure equity and orgasm justice: pleasure, including but not limited to orgasms, for those who want them in the amounts they desire. It’s about giving people autonomy to figure out what they want from sex, the space to communicate it, and the resources to work toward it, not forcing people to have sex to fit someone else’s standards. It’s not about EQUALITY, which means SAMENESS; it’s about FAIRNESS. This graphic that has made the rounds in activist circles explains it perfectly:

equity-vs-equality

During sex, if orgasms are desired, I see them as the product of collaborative effort unless negotiated otherwise. I believe in sexy times where the goals are negotiated among its participants, whether that’s one or twenty one. Is the goal overall pleasure? Is the goal orgasm specifically? Is the goal stress-reduction before a big event, building intimacy, making a baby, making money, something else? Whatever it is, it can’t just be unilaterally decided.  Each person should measure their sexual satisfaction based on their reasons for having sex in any given instance, and goals can be multi-faceted and complex.

That Time My Uber Driver Spent The Entire Ride Hitting On Me (A.K.A. On Challenging the Urge to Minimize Predatory Behavior)

670px-Say-No-to-Sexual-Harassment-in-the-Workplace-Step-3Public transportation in Boston is infinitely better than in Providence, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, or that getting from Point A to B doesn’t sometimes take 1 hour when it could take 10 minutes by independent car. Fortunately, there are private-driver services to fill in the gap (for those who can afford it), especially if you don’t own a car or, like me, don’t even have a license. In short, you download one of the apps and request a ride, then someone comes to nab you and you can track their trajectory on your phone. Easy peasy. No cash needs to be exchanged because you enter your Paypal or card information into your phone.

I started out by trying Lyft in Providence and was charmed with their super friendly service. Now I regularly use services like Lyft or Uber to cut my transportation time or get me places public transportation doesn’t easily access. But this post isn’t about the wonders of getting to and from places. This post is about sexually predatory behavior, customer service that didn’t suck, and how victimized people often have an urge to minimize the actions taken toward them.

(So trigger-warning for descriptions of sexual harassment)

Update 7/8/15: TO BE CLEAR, I’m not trying to say Uber is a great company here. Their RESPONSE to me was really stellar, but there is a LOT wrong with Uber as a business. They have a bad track record of ignoring activists and denying sexual assault allegations, they have some senior executives that spout tons of sexist statements, and let’s not even get into their business model. As more information about those things has surfaced, I have worked to wean myself off supporting them.

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What Not To Do When Housemate Hunting

As it happens, I was housemate hunting recently. The following is text from an email-exchange that ensued after a very singular dude replied to the posting. See, while humor is awesome, using this kind of humor when you’re a cis-dude and we don’t know each other at all = not the best choice.


Hey girls!
In response to your CL listing, here I am.  Your listing and requirements are almost exactly what im looking for!
– Im LGBT-friendly (Im currently traveling Europe with a gay friend and a couple straight ones).
– I like to share household utilities (down to groceries, netflix, bar tabs)
– I throw occasional extravagant parties (maybe twice a year).  Dinner parties are great too.

Im a 28 y/o male engineer going in for a masters in entrepreneurship at Brown this fall.

So a little about me.  To sum it up, im a social, spontaneous, sporty, clean(ish) and nerdy guy.  I was born in Oregon, lived all over the US, but living in Boston for the last 5 years working at a tech startup managing the manufacturing and various engineering aspects of our products.  When im not working I enjoy cycling, hiking, snowboarding, ultimate frisbee, inventing/building random things, traveling, meeting new people, and going out with friends.

Now that you know a little about me, id love to hear a little more about you guys.  The only concern that I have at the moment is… living with THREE girls?  But you guys sound pretty awesome.

Best, XXX


Hi XXXX!

What does an “occasional extravagant party” mean to you? That sounds fancy! 😀 Is it more on the “fancy fabulous party” or “beer pong rager” end of things?

And yes—three girls. Have you been primarily living by yourself or with guys…? We’re pretty awesome if I do say so myself. The question is—are we all compatible? That’s what we have to find out! Do you think you could Skype with us for a chat tomorrow or in the coming days?
On our end, we’re all sociable folks with Venn-diagramming lives. We have our own things going on (and it seems like all fervently love our jobs and doing good for society), but do like to spend time together. For example, we hosted a couchsurfer these past two nights, all of us had dinner together yesterday and then watched a movie about an evil Santa Claus in Finland. Then, today, one of the housemates (Jenna) and I got home from work, chatted over some pineapple-y wine, and watched an “offbeat romantic ghost story” about a married fisherman who has to reconcile his love for a man with his life and society’s social mores. Sometime in August we’ll be hosting a monthly (or so?) feminist book club, and there are plans to go down to Newport sometime because I’ve never been and that’s quite a tragedy.

If that sounds at all interesting, let’s set up a time to chat!


Hey Aida,

The occasional extravagant party means I like to throw epic memorable parties which i invest fairly heavily in.  These are no ordinary beer pong ragers, I dont even allow it.  These are epic themed parties where massive props are made, fog machines, disco balls, candles, blacklights, meticulously created playlists, dance floors, etc. and funded by the young professionals who like to show appreciation to their good friends a couple times a year.  Youve never been to a party like this before.  (Note from Aida: I am simultaneously intrigued and put off.)

Ive been living with 3 boys and 1 girl in boston for the last 5 years.  A few people have cycled, but the ratio always remains the same.  I like to live with at least one girl to keep the place in check.

Im daunted by your “feminist book club” and three “social justice minded” women.  Im pretty sure you guys will want to kill me by the first night if you take my asinine crass humor seriously.  Im pretty over-the-top.  While I appreciate your time, I think im going to have to respectfully decline.

Good luck finding someone!


The problem is, while this guy sounded kind of interesting in a way, he can’t expect me to trust his intent once I’ve already been slammed with sexist bullshit over and over. And even if I WERE to think “well he’s just being ironic/funny,” this kind of shit is not funny to me anymore 99% of the time, especially coming from men, and cis, straight men at that.

If we do not have a relationship, do not have a rapport, and do not have ANY remote smidgen of comfort with each other and knowledge about where we’re coming from, this kind of humor doesn’t make sense and doesn’t make me feel good about our interactions. A lot of what he said just sounds like regurgitations from shitty conversations I’ve had with people who have been clueless, sexist, and/or disrespectful. Does anyone think that’s cool or comforting? That it’s funny or cool to make people feel like they might have another person in their life who devalues them, even if only just for a moment, for the sake of humor, and reenacts the daily sexist bullshit they face?

People can’t expect folks from an oppressed/marginalized group to trust the intent of people from a majority/oppressive class when the latter are going down the same path of shittiness. “Oh oh oh, but I was being FUNNY/IRONIC” is not an excuse. Still shitty. When experience has told me and my communities that this kind of behavior is indicative of sexist and misogynist beliefs, WHY in the world would I just “hope” that this person would be different? Why would I even TRY to excuse them and give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if it’s about living together? Come on. Doesn’t make sense.

Does finding this problematic make me humorless? No. It makes me someone who prefers a more sophisticated and less oppressive brand of humor. I used to be one of those “you can joke about anything! bring on the dark humor and horribly offensive shit!” kind of person, especially before I hit college… but once one’s been exposed to how this kind of thing actually plays out and is the lived reality of people, it’s hard to find that shit funny anymore. That shit is REAL and EVERY DAY and EXHAUSTING. The harm these jokes and cracks make is far higher than their funniness, and from a purely utilitarian perspective (as well as one that focuses on kindness and respect more so than momentary wittiness), IT’S BETTER TO REFRAIN FROM SUCH “JOKES.”

And before someone says “well that’s censorship,” welcome to the world. We all have to “censor” ourselves sometimes. We should HAVE the freedom to be shitty people to some extent and say whatever we want, but consciously CHOOSE to not be shitty to others. We need to strive to be better, and create a world that’s a safer place to be. Just because we “can” do something doesn’t mean we SHOULD do it.

Humor that relies on oppression and marginalization, no matter how small, is LAZY HUMOR. It’s EASY to use the pre-existing power dynamics to “make a funny,” and it pretty much requires no thought or wit or spin–just a pretty straightforward mimicry of what’s going on in the day-to-day. Let’s strive for more instead of just rolling around in the muck.

The Importance of BOOBIES!

In Gayle Salamon’s “Transfeminism and the Future of Gender,” there is a section devoted to the preoccupation with the physical bodies of transmen and how those physical entities signify other processes and concepts that might not immediately be apparent. I was struck by the double standard when it comes to dealing with “women’s” bodies and “transmen’s” bodies in their relationship to their genitals and/or “obviously sexed” body parts, especially when there is a surgical intervention involved. The text presents two main positions, one of which condemns transmen’s surgical transformations and articulates them as a “mutilation,” speaking of the altered chest in terms of “removed breasts” that, in turn, symbolize a “relinquished femininity.” What’s interesting about this position is how it completely opposes the other, where “women” are seen as being defined by—not even created by, but defined by—something beyond their mere body. This idea invokes essentialist notions of being because it supposes that there is some sort of womanly essence that predates the body and is thus neither created nor informed by the physical, making women seem to transcend their physical manifestations and exist more truly and fully on another plane.

In that sense, the very arguments seem hypocritical and completely contradictory, because how can one explain that the breasts on a “woman” are not the ultimate signifiers of her femininity and her belonging to the group of “women” while at the same time, state that for a transman, the removal of those very breasts means losing the most vital piece of womanhood? Of course, the point of getting surgery for many transfolks IS that very rejection of body parts that do not correspond to their identities, but it is not a removal of just one piece; instead, it is a removal of multiple pieces that make up a whole and create what is seen as a “male” or “female” body. The problem with the arguments presented in the article is that they assign different degrees of importance (or, actually, assign a value or a lack thereof) on the same body parts. They are contradictory and mutually exclusive ideas because there is no continuity to the valorization of the breasts; there is an opposition between the constructivism and the essentialism implicit in those very values. Thus, both points of view cannot be adopted and promoted simultaneously as true by a single individual without running the risk of being heavily criticized and called out on their hypocritical double standards.

—-

The funny thing is, this is the approach I take toward my hair. For me, my hair is certainly not all there is to me and it’s not the most important thing in my life. My hair doesn’t fully define me or constitute me. HOWEVER, I use my hair as a tool to define myself. I color it, cut it, put hats on it, you name it. First and foremost, in the name of personal desire and aesthetic pleasure, but secondly in the name of socially and physically constructing my identity. It simultaneously means a lot and very little. So I guess I just argued against my own actions in the previous essay and established my views about my hair as contradictory and complicated at best, and hypocritical at worst. XD But I think I can redeem myself somehow…even though the valorization of my hair is contextually contingent, it’s not the ULTIMATE marker of identity (unlike in the previous case, where the breasts were taken to be THE marker of feminine identity), so…yep.