Monthly Archives: July 2015

Poet Creates First Class for Transgender Poetry

Trace Peterson, a poet at the forefront of the push for transgender representation in poetry, will soon pioneer what she says is the country’s first course in transgender poetry.

Transgender lives and the experience of being transgender is something which not only is difficult for cisgender persons to understand, it can sometimes be difficult for we ourselves to understand. But this is part of the human experience, really – understanding ourselves and our place in the world has been a challenge since the earliest eras of civilization, and poetry has assisted with that communication for millennia.

Enter Trace Peterson, editor and publisher of the journal EOAGH and co-editor of the anthology Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. And in an effort to create visibility for transgender people, as well as to create a literary context for their work, Ms. Peterson will teach what she says is the first course in transgender poetry at Hunter College (of the City University of New York) this fall.

At the link below you can read a poem by Ms. Peterson, as well as listen to her reading her own work.

(Thank you to Julie C. for the news scoop).

Source: Poet creates first class for transgender poetry

Trans Talk : Local Musicians and a Successful Transgender Marriage


On today’s show on the Tenth Voice’s Trans Talk program, Una Nowling (me), and Luke Harness (my bro) will discuss two very different topics. In our first segment the topic will be transgender musicians, and three local transgender musicians will join us in the KKFI studio to discuss their art and their lives – Melody Burns from the External Combustion Orchestra, solo performer Mercury Mad, and Ceri Anne, who is working to form a band called “The Transistors.”

In our second segment we will have Blake and Ali in our studio to discuss the challenges of their transgender relationship. Together for seven years this October and married as a same sex couple in 2010, they became husband and wife in October 2014, after Blake got his gender marker legally changed. They’ll be with us in the studio sharing their experiences of being in a relationship prior to, and throughout, Blake’s transition.

Listen to us at 1:00pm on 90.1 KKFI, Kansas City’s Community Radio. If you are outside of the area or do not have a wireless receiving device, you can stream the program by going to our station’s website.

New Research Report: Transsexual Breast Augmentation – Under or Over the Muscle?

Exclusive to Transas City: a summary of my research into the question of whether there is a distinct risk of a loss of arm muscle strength or mobility for transsexual women who undergo breast augmentation with the implants placed under the pectoral (chest) muscle. While this is often a subject of conjecture, anecdote, and rumor within the transgender community, very few have the facts at their disposal – including, from my personal experience, the surgeons themselves.

In the report which is linked below I present the results of my literature review of medical testing to determine the facts behind the potential risks of sub-muscular breast implants in transsexual women. Please forward this to anyone who is considering breast augmentation in the near future.

Link to the article: Transsexual Breast Augmentation – Under or Over the Muscle?

Zoey Tur is Unfortunately in Hot Water, Again

Journalist Zoey Tur, who has undergone a highly public gender transition and who has also been responsible for even more highly public controversies among the transgender community, has had a police report filed against her by Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Ben Shapiro. The complaint was prompted by the following escapades which occurred during a televised discussion regarding Caitlyn Jenner. From the Washington Times:

The report follows a tense exchange between Mr. Shapiro and Ms. Tur on HLN’s “Dr. Drew On Call” over Caitlyn Jenner’s receipt of ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Ms. Tur grabbed the back of Mr. Shapiro’s neck and said, “You cut that out now, or you’ll go home in an ambulance,” after Mr. Shapiro called her “sir.”

Mr. Shapiro later alleged that Ms. Tur had threatened him after the appearance, saying, “I’ll see you in the parking lot.” CNN security escorted Mr. Shapiro to his car after ensuring Ms. Tur had left the premises, according to Breitbart News.

Ms. Tur also tweeted “me too” on Friday in response to a Twitter user who said he’d liked to see Ms. Tur “curb stomp” the Breitbart editor.

Seems a bit over-the-top, yes? Tur is a polarizing person in the transgender community, for such other controversies as her “investigation” via Facebook of transgender woman Carlotta Sklodowska, who was harassed for using the female facilities at a Michigan gym. Tur “speculate(d) that Sklodowska was actually a male-identified crossdresser expressing a “sexual fetish.” and further “directly accused Sklodowska of entering the locker room as a sexual predator aiming to “perv out on women.”

Tur also angered transgender people when she:

“…implied that some trans men are not actually trans because they just have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormone imbalance found in some females. “With hormone replacement therapy,” she proclaimed, “it can be treated and it can adjust people back to where they would be.” Interviewer James St. James confirmed, “So you’re saying that they might think that they’re transgender when actually it’s just a medical situation?” “Correct,” Tur responded. Diego Sanchez, Director of Policy for PFLAG National and a transgender man himself, told ThinkProgress that Tur’s assertion is “false.” He should know; his own endocrinologist, Dr. Vin Tangpricha, has conducted much of the available research on the topic.”

She also twice outed Caitlyn Jenner on television prior to her transition, and she has made inaccurate legal claims, which she did own up to, regarding Title II versus Title VII and its relevance for protecting transgender persons.

Tur, who holds no journalism degrees nor any research credentials nor scientific training which would provide her backing for making the statements which she has made, has been brash and largely unapologetic about her stances and statements. With this latest television embarrassment, she is again casting transgender persons in a bad light. I don’t have a circuit of pet television spots to appear upon, but I have enough professional training and doggone common sense to understand that you do not physically assault your opponent during a debate, nor make vague threats of violence in person! Honestly, I really don’t get it.

From ThinkProgress:

Tur insisted to ThinkProgress that she doesn’t think of herself as a spokesperson of the trans community, adding that she was “fully thinking of the [good of the] community” when she made her comments. But Sanchez warns that despite her intent, the way she speaks about transgender issues — and the way the media allows her to speak about transgender issues — could still be problematic. “It is crucial for the health and well-being of all people who are trans that one person does not declare themselves or be declared a spokesperson for an entire community,” he told ThinkProgress. “It is also crucial that the media not approach anyone in that way. One person’s experience is exactly that: one person’s experience.”

Juro, like Stabler and Sanchez, worries that the political stakes for transgender equality are too high to allow for such problematic messaging and representation. Her advice to Tur is simple: “Please stop saying stupid shit on television.”


Source: Ben Shapiro files police report against Zoey Tur, Inside Edition reporter – Washington Times

“Tangerine”: A Stunning and Unusual Film About Transgender Prostitutes


Shot on tricked out iPhone 5s’s along the streets of L.A., Sean Baker’s no-budget revenge odyssey ‘Tangerine’ is not only a staggering achievement, but a brilliant film.

The plight of transgender prostitutes is one I know very well, having served for a time on the board of directors of a charity which provided needed assistance to prostitutes on the streets of Kansas City, a very large number of which were transgender women of color. And there really isn’t anything positive at all about the conditions in which transgender prostitutes must work and live, the violence and degradation they endure, drug and alcohol addiction, the lack of basic services – let alone health care. In short, there really isn’t anything humorous at all about the world of sexual exploitation.

But art finds humor even where it seems impossibly irreverent. And so long as the characters are treated with respect and allowed their own dignity, even a portrayal of transgender prostitution could have artistic merit without being offensive.

Enter the indie film Tangerine, scripted by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch and turning heads after a splash debut at the Sundance film festival. Set in the strip of Santa Monica Boulevard, a common venue for transgender prostitutes bordered by the trendy gay mecca of WeHo and the working-class ethnic enclaves of East Hollywood, the story of Tangerine revolves around Sin-Dee (Kitana “Kiki” Rodriguez) and her quest to punish her man (James Ransone) who was unfaithful with one of his cisgender prostitutes while she was serving a month in jail. This naturally sets Sin-Dee’s into a furious rampage across Hollywood one Christmas Eve, with her best friend, fellow prostitute Alexandra (Mya Taylor) accompanying her.

There is a preview of the film below; it is most definitely not work-safe, with a lot of profanity. What has many talking about Tangerine is not the subject matter, but the fact that the entire film was shot on a shoestring budget using three iPhone 5s smartphones. Yes, that’s right, filmed by smartphones.

There is more detail about the film at the two links below the YouTube video. It’s difficult to get a clear impression of the film from a 2-minute preview, I’m going to give the film a chance and see it or buy the DVD as soon as it is released. I confess that even though I tried not to, given the gravity of the overarching topic, I actually laughed out loud at the back-and-forth witty dialogue between Sin-Dee and Alexandra.

‘Tangerine’: How One of the Most Stunning Movies of the Year Was Shot on an iPhone – The Daily Beast

The Plight of the Transgender Prostitute – The Daily Beast

Transman U.S. Military Pilot Wears a Woman’s Uniform, But is Hopeful

Sergeant Shane Ortega, who serves at Wheeler Airfield in Hawaii, has lived openly as a transgendered man for five years but under current rules, must wear a female military uniform. A bodybuilder who is massively ripped, to use the scientific term, Ortega must wear the largest-sized women’s uniform available. Ortega is very fortunate, however, in that he has been able to keep his career, unlike the careers of thousands of transgender veterans which were prematurely ended by their need to live an authentic and fulfilling life as the gender they were meant to be.

Ortega may have some hope, however, as just this Monday U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that Pentagon leaders are finalizing plans aimed at lifting the ban on transgender individuals in the U.S. military. Ash gave transgender military personnel hope when he stated, in part:

Today, I am issuing two directives to deal with this matter. First, DoD will create a working group to study over the next six months the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly. Led by (Acting) Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson, and composed of military and civilian personnel representing all the military services and the Joint Staff, this working group will report to Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work. At my direction, the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified. Second, I am directing that decision authority in all administrative discharges for those diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who identify themselves as transgender be elevated to Under Secretary Carson, who will make determinations on all potential separations.
(You can read the official Department of Defense Statement at this link.)

Ortega, commenting upon Secretary Carter’s announcement, stated that he is “…pumped up. At the same time I know this is a small step forward and there’s much more to do.”

Source: Transgender military pilot is forced to wear a woman’s uniform

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? – A Personal Essay on Transgender Violence and Boy George

Boy_George_4Screen capture from “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.”

Growing up in a small town or the suburbs can be a challenge for transgender persons, simply due to the small size of the community and the lack of transgender-friendly resources. Now imagine if you can that you are a young teenager, learning that you are transgender in a small town, but in the early 1980’s.

That was the life I lived.

Anyone born after 1995 takes it for granted that you can open up any computer or smartphone and get near-instant access to an incredible amount of human knowledge. What’s more, with e-mail, social media, online gaming and other communities, no transgender person need ever think that they are the only person in the world who has this “condition” of believing they are a different gender on the inside than on the outside.

Consider again that LGBT awareness, rights, and respect were virtually nonexistent prior to 1990. This was especially true for the case of transgender persons. Every year or so, one of the transgender pioneers would make the news – Renee Richards and Jan Morris in the 1970’s, for example. But even in the rare case where a transgender person was treated well by the media, their story was a flash in the pan. Typically, we appeared in news stories telling us about how we were “sexual freaks”, “kinky transvestites,” or just simply “mentally ill.”

Better_Off_Dead“In the high school halls, in the shopping malls / Conform or be cast out.” The 1980’s were incredibly brutal if you didn’t fit in.

To be a transgender person at age 14 in the suburbs of the early 1980’s was akin to being on a deserted island. I had learned early on from physical abuse from my father that one did not speak about being transgender. Actually, even the word “transgender” was unknown to the general public at that time, leaving one with no good definition for oneself. The only reference source available to a kid with a bicycle was the Olathe Public Library. I’ll never forget one blazing hot Kansas summer morning, when I rode my bike to the library and searched the card catalog in vain for any book or magazine which talked about people like me. Finally, braver than smart, I asked a grey-haired librarian “Where can I find books about boys who know they’re really a girl inside?”

Card_CatalogOur version of Google, circa 1982.

Her smile vanished, she drew herself up to her full height, and she replied “Young man! We do not carry books on pornography! Give me your library card now!

Of course I beat it out of there, terrified that somehow the librarian knew who I was and would be sending the police to come grab me at home. I spent a couple of worried days wondering what the fallout would be, and I didn’t visit the library for a year or more afterward. But returning to the narrative, the point was that a kid like me basically was left feeling completely alone.

Boy_George_1Boy George, circa 1982. Allow me a single “rrrroooow!”

And then, one day in 1982 while killing time in front of MTV (Yes, MTV did actually play music back then!), I saw a video which absolutely stunned me. It was “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” by an English New Wave band named Culture Club, and the video prominently featured lead singer Boy George. Dressed androgynously and singing in a gentle tenor which could have been male or female, I watched and thought “OK, it must be someone just playing around crossdressing for the video. But I wonder, if they are the same kinda whatever I am that I am?” Then came other videos from that album – “Time (Clock of the Heart)” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” and still there was the seriously gender-crossing clothing, singing, makeup, and manners. Shortly afterwards, the band was interviewed on television, and George kept to the image.

Boy_George_3When I first saw Boy George, I wasn’t even certain what gender he was. It was uplifting.

Mind you, Boy George certainly wasn’t the first musician to cross gender boundaries – David Bowie comes to mind as a ready example at the time. And androgyny was a prevalent feature of musical cultural movements like the New Romantics and New Wave. But Boy George kicked it up a notch.

I was now convinced – “This is someone just like me! And they’re out in public, and singing, and making money, and not only that people are listening to them!” Both “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and “Time (Clock of the Heart)” made it to #2 on the US charts, and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” made it to a very respectable #9. Boy George proved to me right then and there that one could transcend gender, be in the public eye, and people could accept you! I felt as though I had found a distant cousin, rather than an idol. Not only that, but in the music video for “Time (Clock of the Heart),” we see other band members toying with gender expression – for example, bassist Mikey Craig is wearing a yellow dress.

Mikey_CraigMikey Craig, wearing a very 80’s yellow dress.

My feelings were complicated by the fact that I really, really had a crush on Boy George. Androgyny attracted me very strongly back then (it still does, to a lesser extent nowadays), and I thought that George was beautiful – especially in the video for “Time (Clock of the Heart).”

I generally did a good job of hiding my transgender identity from my friends, peers, and family. But I couldn’t hide my enthusiasm for Boy George and Culture Club, for the aforementioned reasons, and I didn’t realize at the time how dangerous that could have been. Then one day, while over at a friend’s house with two other friends present, we were hanging out and watching MTV, and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” came on the screen. One friend changed the channel, and I switched it back and said I wanted to watch the video. I started to say how much I liked Boy George and Culture Club, when – to quote Wodehouse – suddenly the atmosphere turned black and scaly. I don’t have an eidetic memory, so the following is from my recollection of the exchange that took place.

Friend 1: “Do I really want to hurt you? Hell yeah, I do!”

Friend 2: “Look at that fucking fag. I hate him and his ugly fucking face. If I saw him out somewhere, I’d run over him.”

Friend 3: “I’d like to set him and his gay dreads on fire. I wish MTV wouldn’t play so many faggy videos.”

Friend 2: “No really, he gets off dressing like a girl. He’s a freak. My brother said if he ever saw that freak in public, he’d bash his face in.”

Friend 1: “I heard if you get buttslammed enough it breaks your balls and you become a girl. Wonder how much buttslamming he had?”

Friend 2: “I’d cut his balls off with a rusty chainsaw. You know he dresses like that to trick guys into fucking him.”

Friend 1: “Doesn’t fool me. Only fags would fuck something like that.”

Friend 3: “I’d rather burn him alive. All that makeup would flare up just like gasoline. Woooooooosh!”

Boy_George_2Not everyone appreciated androgyny in the 1980’s. And by “not everyone,” I mean “almost no one.”

And they carried on, moving into a general condemnation of “fags” and all things “faggoty” in the world. Did I stay silent? No. To my shame, I forced myself to laugh with their jokes, and got up and changed the channel. “Yeah, I thought it was a different video. I don’t want to watch this shit.” I was sick with fear. My friends had seen someone crossing gender boundaries on television, and these teenage boys in Olathe, Kansas, were so enraged by this that they boasted of wanting to burn him alive, vivisecting him, and outright cold-blooded murder.

I tell people when I lecture sometimes on anti-transgender violence that I’d rather be attacked by a pack of wild dogs than a pack of wild teenage boys. At least with the wild dogs, it’s not personal.

And I should have guessed the reactions in advance, really, as homophobia was rampant in that time and place. In 10th grade I witnessed a boy beaten bloody by about half the football team because he wore a pink button-down shirt to school. Was he gay? No – he wore it because Don Johnson wore them on “Miami Vice,” and he wanted to look like a macho character on television. The mistake he made was in thinking he could “get away with” wearing a pink shirt.

Miami_ViceA gay crime-fighting duo? Hardly.

We had the “no blue jeans or you’re gay” day, leading to clueless me, who missed the memo, being punched, kicked, tripped, and verbally abused. I tried to grow my hair long, to at least have some trappings on the outside of the ghost of a girl inside me. Guess what? Long hair also meant you were a “fag.” Beatings ensued. After the HIV/AIDS drama “An Early Frost” was aired in 1985, anyone who had a cough was asked mockingly “Is it an ‘early frost?’ Got something you want to tell us? Fag?”

The junior high and high school cliques of the mean girls and the jocks decided ad hoc what did and didn’t make you a “fag,” and therefore a target. One girl was almost beaten up by her peers for wearing a Eurythmics concert shirt, because the group was fronted by Annie “Lezzy” Lennox.

Annie_LennoxShe has to be a lesbian, because, um, short hair, and, um, suit? Right?

I used to wear an amethyst ring I had bought at the Renaissance Festival, as a connection to my inner girl, until a school counselor acted on his own to call me into his office and order me to remove the ring, because wearing it “meant you were gay.” One day someone declared peanut butter and jelly to be gay, because – well, just because. This, from the “future leaders of America.”

I know a lot of these folks nowadays. Some of them I talk to from time to time, while others I see as Facebook friends. I wonder sometimes – “Did you teach your kids to do as you did – pick on the weak, the different, the misfits? Or, did you teach them that who someone loves or what they have in their jeans isn’t your doggone business? Did you do the right thing, the second time around?” In some cases I know the answer is yes; in many others, I’m uncertain.

The popularity wheel turned, as it shall for everyone except Madonna, and Culture Club moved off the scene. In later years, Boy George was known primarily for his drug use and misdemeanor escapades. Perhaps ten or more years ago, I came across a fan-run website all about Culture Club and Boy George, with several references from his autobiography.

I cried when I learned Boy George was cisgender. If you’ve read this far, you understand why.

Boy_George_5Boy George, circa 2014.

I had some time to convalesce while recovering from pneumonia recently, and I spent some time re-watching old 1980’s music videos on YouTube just for the heck of it. I came upon the old Culture Club videos, and the memories came flooding back. I remember being the scared, hidden transgender teen, sitting in a suburban living room hearing epithets and threats thrown towards a young man who just wanted to sing and have a different gender expression. I remember the fear, and how I felt like even among my friends if I made one slip, let them get one glimpse through the door of the real me, that I could at best end up a pariah, and at worst end up in the hospital.

Transgender youth today unmistakably have that same fear. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey:

  • Those who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in grades K-12 reported alarming rates of harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%).
  • The harassment was so severe that it led nearly one-sixth (15%) to leave school in grades K-12 or in higher education settings.
  • Teachers and staff members, whose job in part includes ensuring student safety, were too often the perpetrators of harassment and violence in K-12. Thirty-one percent (31%) of the sample reported harassment by teachers or staff, 5% reported physical assault by teachers or staff and 3% reported sexual assault by teachers or staff.
  • More than half (51%) of respondents who were harassed, physically or sexually assaulted, or expelled because of their gender identity/expression reported having attempted suicide. Of those who were physically assaulted by teachers/staff or students, 64% reported having attempted suicide. And three-quarters (76%) of those who were assaulted only by teachers or staff reported having attempted suicide.
  • Respondents who identity as female-to-male transgender people today reported a higher rate of these abuses (65%) than male-to-female respondents (53%) and those who identify as gender non-conforming experienced abuse at a higher frequency (70%) than transgender-identified respondents (59%).

Injustice_at_Every_TurnGender non-conformity is still a no-no (from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey).

I never seek to minimize someone else’s oppression and suffering, and the National Transgender Discrimination Survey tells a dire tale. But aside from Boy George and that briefly-lit candle of hope, it’s stunning to me when I reflect that the situation for transgender teens in my youth was so very much worse.


Grant, Jaime M., et al. Injustice at every turn: A report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. National Center for Transgender Equality, 2011.

Kansas State Agencies Recognizing Same-Sex Marriages

Source: BREAKING: State Agencies Recognizing Same-Sex Marriages | Equality Kansas

Equality Kansas, which has many fine people working for it (including my good friend and mentor Sandra Meade), is announcing that Kansas State Agencies are throwing in the towel and recognizing same-sex marriages. The reason is not given, but my speculation is that perhaps Governor Brownback or others in the government finally decided that they didn’t want a Constitutional crisis on their legacy. Whatever the reason, we are winning.

I want to note to the readers out there that it may take several days or weeks for all regional county offices to fall into line, especially the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Even well-intentioned bureaucrats can sometimes err on the side of delay out of fear of losing their job. Please observe the following procedures to make life simpler for yourself:

  • If possible, phone the local office of the DMV yourself and ask if they are issuing drivers licenses with name changes for same-sex marriages. Regardless of how they answer, note down the name of the person you speak to, and the time of the call.
  • If they reply that they are, then ask them exactly what information you need to bring with you. Ask them to repeat this if you are at all unsure. You may want to record the information just so you will not forget.
  • If they reply that they are NOT issuing new licenses, don’t get angry with them. The person on the phone is some low-level person who was given the worst possible task – answering inane and insane questions from the general public, many of whom are angry. They will not and have no ability to change the policy suddenly because you yelled at them. Contact Equality Kansas by e-mail, or your personal legal counsel, and describe the situation. Note the time you phoned, the person you spoke to, and exactly what they said.
  • If you are told they will issue you a license, and then they change your mind after you arrive, stay calm. I know you’re unhappy and you’ve taken time out of your day. Ask to speak to the manager, and note their name. Ask them politely the reason why they will not issue. Don’t negotiate with them – you will not win, and it will only make you and them angry. And being arrested for the catch-all of “disturbing the peace” is a crappy way to spend your day. Pretend like you are Mr. Spock on an away mission if you have to. Note the time and place and everyone you spoke to. Then contact Equality Kansas or your personal legal counsel.

Note that this general policy applies to most other Kansas state agencies as well. Good luck!