Not My Normal Post

So I talk about changing the meaning of ‘manning up’ from being this misogynistic machismo thing to a concept of men taking responsibility for their actions and their lives. I’m working on manning up myself, because I want to be the best man I can possibly be. And I’ve got some really awesome role models to help me fill those shoes. 

Turns out, I’ve got a new guy to add to that list. 

We all struggle with life at times. And, it’s gotta be some kind of Murphy’s Law that kicks you when you’re already down. 

But I know a guy, in spite of all the stuff he’s got on his plate, is manning up in one of the best ways possible. He’s manning up to be a father. He’s fighting for his son. 

My co-worker, my friend, is fighting for full custody of his son.

I wish you could see him talk about his son. His face completely lights up and you can literally see him filling up with pride. But it’s not the sort of unattainable adoration that every son acheives to invoke in his father. This is real. This is a father’s love for his son. I dare you to talk to him about his kid and not find yourself feeling proud right alongside with him.  

But here’s the thing. In order to get full custody, it costs money. Filing fees, attorney fees – my friend and his fiancee have a lawyer ready to go, but they don’t have the money. Now, normally I don’t do this, because I don’t always feel comfortable asking for money. This is different. This guy, this man – he wants to do the right thing, he wants to be the father to his son and give him a life of love and happiness and teach him what being a man is all about. 

My friend has some medical needs, both him and his fiancee, that need taking care of. He’s paying for those out of pocket, so when it comes to money for a lawyer, he’s lacking the necessary funds for the ongoing process of a custody fight.

This is where I’m turning to you, friends. He’s started a GoFundMe to try and raise the money for lawyer’s fees. Any and all donations help.  

He’s working on fixing mistakes from his past, so let’s not punish his son for past ghosts (God knows we all have some). My friend also said any money left over from the process would go to the travelling hockey team his son plays for – to help other families that are struggling give their kids a little something extra.

I really want to see this dad get custody of his son. So how about helping out? I did. You should too. I wouldn’t advocate for this guy if I didn’t believe in what he is doing.

The Measure of an Activist

The internet has been abuzz as of late about Indiana’s RFRA, specifically, about a little pizzeria called Memories Pizza. (By the way, the business didn’t bother to purchase their domain name.)

They closed shortly after coming out on the news talking about their opposition to serving the LGBT community, specifically stating they wouldn’t cater a same-sex wedding. The owners claimed they received death threats and because of this, felt they needed to close their business for their safety.

Yet none of these alleged threats have been discovered. None of the articles posted go into any sort of detail regarding the threats. To me, a threat of death is far more serious than a threat to boycott a restaurant.

This post, however, isn’t about the validity of the threats, or why RFRA is wrong, or how obvious it’s been that Memories Pizza was chosen to be a martyr for the “Gays are Evil” movement. This post is about activism and advocacy, and how important these things are.

I comment on a post about exactly that, how these people are martyrs for the cause. Someone responded with a comment that didn’t set well with me. They said that yes, the LGBT community and their allies had shut the business down, but that we didn’t change the minds of the business owners, so essentially, nothing had changed.

I beg to differ. Shutting down a business because they have bigoted, discriminatory views does change things. Recently Mira received the honor of being a member of the Trans100 2015. One of the keynote speakers, Tiq Milan, talked about his mother teaching him about taking up space, and how he has a right to take up space, and a responsibility to take up space.

By shutting this business down, the LGBT community has shown them that we deserve to be here, and we will take up our rightful space, whether others feel we deserve that space or not. And it’s our responsibility to continue to take up our rightful space, no matter what the opposition says or does.

How do we gauge the success of our efforts? If it’s solely by the number of minds changed, then are any other efforts moot? The Woolworth sit-ins in Greensboro most likely didn’t change the minds of the shop owner or many of the other white people sitting in the diner. Because they didn’t change the minds of those people, does that discount the fact those four students sparked an interest that ultimately resulted in 1000 people protesting the segregation? Certainly not.

Those four students had enough. They took up their rightful space at that counter. And the LGBT community needs to do the same. We need to continue to take up space and show our opposers that we are not backing down. Of course I’d love to change minds in the process, but that obviously isn’t always going to happen.

To poo-poo the efforts of the LGBT community and their allies to get businesses to close their doors because of discrimination is hurtful and extremely dangerous. If enough people felt the way this commenter did, the likelihood of any kind of movement for social change wouldn’t occur, because ‘we couldn’t change their minds’.

Change doesn’t occur overnight, either. Stonewall was the catalyst for the LGBT movement. But their efforts didn’t change the hearts and minds of all people. Clearly that fight still continues. The results of their actions, however, gave others the inspiration to no longer sit back and be trampled on.

Yes. We came out in force against this business. Yes, we may have helped in shutting the business down. And yes, we didn’t change the way they feel about the LGBT community. But things have changed. And they continue to change.

We may not change everyone’s minds. But it is our job to continue to fight, to take each step forward as a victory, as fuel to continue down the path to equality. As Tiq Milan said, success is measured in the space we occupy. It’s measured in the quantity of people out fighting for a cause. It’s measured by the quality of life those fighting for rights have. Each victory, no matter how small, counts.

This is a victory. It shows other businesses that we will not back down. It shows others within the LGBT community that we do matter, and that we can make a difference.

SIDENOTE: I understand that the owners of the pizzeria became puppets of the religious right. I also understand that they were most likely approached and told if they closed their doors, they would be repaid for it. I understand they became martyrs and targeted to be martyrs. This however, to me, is still a victory. Our voices were heard.

I need to get something off my chest…

Breasts. Boobs. Jugs. Melons.

Whatever you want to call them, I have them. I don’t want them. I’d much rather say ta-ta to my ta-tas than save them.

It’s not often I have dysphoria about my gender. But when it happens, holy cow, does it suck.

Mira and I went out to the theatre as we often do, to see a play put on by one of our local acting troupes. My week had been good, albeit busy, but good. I was interviewed, with Mira, and was on TV. I wore my binder and got to dress up at work (we had clients visit) and I’d been more than content with my appearance, including my profile. But, by Friday, I think my binder was as sick of my body as my body was of my binder.

We arrived at the theatre and when I sat down in my seat, it happened. My binder shifted.

This is a godsend for those of us trans men who are pre-surgery
This is a godsend for those of us trans men who are pre-surgery

Upward. Not rolled, not moved slightly, but shifted upwards. I felt uncomfortable, but shrugged it off. Mira asked if I needed to use the bathroom, but everyone had sat down in the seats next to us, and I didn’t want to be that guy who makes everyone move in their row so he can get in and out for no good reason.

The play started, and when the lights dimmed, I tugged and shifted, hoping to move it back into place, all the while trying to convince myself it was no big deal. I got into the play, and was greatly enjoying myself. Intermission came, and Mira went to talk to a friend. I took the opportunity to go use the restroom so I could fix my binder.

genderx390_10I stood up from my seat (after arguing with myself about going), and made it out of the main theatre into the lobby, down the ramp, and about twenty steps away from the restrooms. Then I froze. Which bathroom should I use? I thought I looked like a guy. I mean, I did, didn’t I? But there would only be like one stall, and what if someone was in there? I’d look kind of odd standing around waiting for the stall, right? But I’d get weird looks if I went into the women’s room, right? I looked more like a guy than a butch lesbian, right? I could feel the panic quickly rising, ironically, in my chest. In fact, I looked down at my chest, and was absolutely convinced the binder was doing nothing for me at this point.

I felt my face flushing with embarrassment and shame. I quickly walked back into the theatre and sat down, trying desperately to keep myself together. Mira sat down and quickly saw my discontent and asked what was wrong. I felt myself getting very angry. Not with her, but with myself. I tried brushing it off and saying I had an issue going to the bathroom, but I was okay.

I wasn’t. She asked me to talk to her about it in the car on the way home, which I agreed to.

I told her about the shame I felt, and the embarrassment, and how I wanted my breasts gone. I told her about struggling to figure out what bathroom I should use. We both agreed that the group of people who go to see this group perform wouldn’t care which restroom I used, and certainly wouldn’t accost me, but I still struggled. And I cried. I was ashamed of myself for not having the strength or confidence to walk into the men’s room with my head held high. I was embarrassed by my appearance, convinced my chest was showing. And then I was ashamed for being embarrassed…and it spiraled for a bit.

We went to the store to pick up some late night junk food to help me feel better. Mira asked me if I wanted to wait in the car. I told her no. Because it’s important to me to be able to move through my days as I am in the moment, and be okay with that. Things won’t be changing physically for me anytime soon, so I need to be able to cope, and going into the grocery store is part of that.

struggle1
It’s hard to keep moving forward sometimes, knowing parts of you are trapped within other parts.

I struggle at work, knowing which restroom to use. It may seem ridiculous to some of you reading this. You’ve always known which bathroom to use. It’s not that easy for me. I mean, I know I’m a trans man. I’m a guy, I should use the men’s room. But my confidence level isn’t always that high. Especially when it comes to my chest. I don’t have large boobs, but they’re big enough to be noticed. And that’s difficult to deal with, when you know your body is supposed to look different, but there’s nothing you can do about it, at least not right now.

I’ve struggled with my weight, and the only thing I can liken my struggle with restrooms with is buying clothes – when a medium has always fit you, and now, suddenly, it doesn’t, or when you find a shirt you really like, but it’s not in your size, nor are any of the clothes you like – your confidence and self-esteem takes a very heavy hit. It’s like that with bathrooms. But more visceral. It’s a reminder that I’m not the man I want to be yet. That while my head says one thing, my body is clearly saying something different.

I understand some of the issue is created in my own mind. My breasts weren’t that noticeable, nor would it really have mattered which bathroom I used, no one would have really cared. But this struggle is real, regardless of whether what I feel is created in my own mind or actually happens.

Mira and I went out today, to buy some dresses for some upcoming events. One of the places we went to, the staff was incredibly helpful, and very kind, but she made the assumption that I was a ‘lady’, and when I made mention that I would be attending some of these events as well, tried to hook me up with a dress, and then with a ‘really nice pantsuit’. She clearly didn’t understand me by appearance. It made me a bit uncomfortable, but I’ve gotten use to shrugging it off.

bb0f129749de709cae657fe57aaef2efThere are times when I look in the mirror, and it doesn’t bother me. There are other times I look in the mirror, and I picture myself with a flat chest, and it makes me happy. And yet there are other times when I look in the mirror and it hurts, knowing I have these physical barriers which aren’t changing fast enough for me. I wish the bathroom thing wasn’t a big deal. It really shouldn’t be. I mean, I just want to go to the bathroom. I don’t want to be hassled any more than I want to hassle anyone else.

And some day, that won’t even be an issue for me anymore. Mentally, I’m quickly becoming the man I want to be, the man I’m proud to be. Physically, that will follow too. In the meantime, I’m learning how to deal. I’ll continue to struggle, here and there. Some days it will be my chest, some days it will be my voice. Sometimes I’ll wonder if I’m ever going to be happy with my appearance. Some days will be filled with doubt, and some days will be empty of confidence. People have talked about having a bad gender day. I’ll have my share of those.

But the path to who I am isn’t supposed to be easy. If it were, would it be worth it? I’ll have my days of gender dysphoria – days when I don’t want to leave the house because I’m exasperated by my genes. I will though, because it’s all a part of becoming me. My struggles shape my successes.

And I plan on being successful in my life.

(Aiutami is Italian for Help Me, and the song, Aiutami is in the play we saw that night, The Light in the Piazza. It’s sometimes how I feel…)

 

On Being a Man and a Feminist

I identify as a trans man, and as a feminist. Not because it’s trendy or because it sounds good. Not because my girlfriend is (although Mira is incredibly fierce, and I do aspire to hold some of the same values as her), and not because it’s an easy thing to be (because frankly, it’s not).

I am a feminist because it’s necessary. And it’s right. I’ve been fortunate to have been allowed to explore my masculinity as a child, and while I didn’t necessarily have strong male role models growing up, I wasn’t raised to believe that because I was a girl I “couldn’t”.

And now, though I’m fortunate enough to experience a degree of male privilege, it doesn’t mean that suddenly I don’t have a responsibility to fight for rights of women all over the world.

Mira and I watched India’s Daughter the other night. It’s about the gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh that took place in Delhi, India, back in 2012. The documentary lasted only about an hour, but in that hour I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so angry and filled with such palpable feelings of injustice (which isn’t the right word either – it goes beyond a simple injustice).

The things the men said between the lawyers for the rapists and one of the rapists himself were beyond incorrigible. In fact, as Mira and I talked about later, the views of the men are reflected all over the world. Opinions that women shouldn’t be out late, they shouldn’t be out alone, they shouldn’t wear ‘provocative’ clothing – opinions reflected in that documentary, have also been spoken in the United States. The idea that women are somehow solely responsible for sexual assault is, while grossly disgusting, not a new idea.

I strongly urge all of the men I know to watch this documentary. Though if you’ve read my blog on a regular basis, you’ll know that the men in my life are my role models, good, strong, loving men who understand the strength of a woman. But sometimes that isn’t enough.

As a trans man…as a man, I have a unique place in feminism. As I’ve said, I was raised with an emphasis on the more masculine side of gender. That’s not to say that I was taught that women are lesser or othered. I was raised as a daughter. Which also meant that I did experience the inequality between men and women. I saw it in gym class, when boys and girls were held to different standards when completing the Presidential Fitness Test in elementary school. Among my peers, I was a tomboy, so I was allotted a certain amount of distance from any ‘feminine’ behavior – gossiping and standing in a group at recess.

Even then, I never thought it was right – that boys and girls had different physical fitness standards (more than once, I watched a boy get the snot beat out of him by a girl for making an off-color remark) or that because I was a girl that I wasn’t supposed to play soccer or dodgeball with the guys.

At some point, I remember being told that I had to be careful when being alone with a boy or being outside after dark by myself. Even then, it was understood that it was more important to control my conduct than to teach appropriate behavior among the young men. I’d see stories on the news about “taking back the night”, and scores of women, arms linked, walking down streets in both a protest and an effort to reclaim their rightful place in their neighborhoods. And why? Because no one else would do it. Time and time again, there would be news stories about another rape and murder of a woman – and time after time, initial reports would claim the women were prostitutes (somehow this meant their death was okay by the simple fact of their profession, or that they were asking for this because of ‘risky behavior’). The blame was always, always placed on the woman.

“She asked for it.”

“She was dressed like a slut. I figured that’s what she wanted.”

“She shouldn’t have dressed that way. If she had just been home before dark, like a good girl, and had some decency, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Because a woman’s body is not her own. We’re told this time and time again – legislators passing laws to govern a woman’s body, television and movies showing scantily clad women being sexually promiscuous, and somehow they’re the sexual deviant, not the men. Women who have been raped being forced into a place of shame and blame because somehow, by the mere fact that they are women, they should just accept that they’ll be sexually assaulted, and not fight it.

The disparaging remarks made by the rapists from India’s Daughter  are sentiments echoed by the men in our own country. I’d written in the past about the baggage that comes with claiming manhood, and this is another aspect of it. Somehow, somewhere in history, society gave men a free pass when it comes to things like rape and sexual assault. It’s even associated with male privilege, that it’s my right to assert sexual dominance over my partner, regardless of whether or not that’s what she desires. In fact, it wasn’t until 1993 that marital rape was considered a crime in all 50 states. Even then, it was still disputed as a ‘real thing’ because how could rape occur in a marriage when the woman gave herself over to the husband? Each state has their own law regarding marital rape and in several states, there are differences in the definition of what constitutes marital rape – like the severity of violence, how the rape occurred, under what circumstances the assault occurred. Suddenly it didn’t matter what the woman’s experience was – no didn’t mean no anymore. If I’m honest, no hasn’t meant no for a lot longer prior to this.

I remember my sister telling me a story about rescuing a girl from a frat party. My sister was leaving and witnessed another woman, clearly unable to make decisions for herself, being half led, half dragged up a stairway to where the bedrooms were. She grabbed the woman, made up a name and acted as though she had been looking all over for her, and rescuing the rufied woman from certain sexual assault. Although depending on who you ask, if a woman is drugged, then consent is not required.

These things are beyond wrong. And these acts of violence are perpetuated by men. It’s pretty obvious why I’d been so hesitant to call myself a man when you read articles every day about men imposing themselves on women, because it was their privilege to.

And I’ve got that free sexual assault card. I sure as hell don’t want it, but I’m not going to give it back, either, because all that means is an extra card for someone else. I’m going to tear it to shreds and burn it.

As a man who is a feminist, it’s my duty not to defend women, but to change the attitudes of my fellow-men. Enough of the victim blaming/shaming. Enough defending a woman’s right to be outside after 9 pm. Enough defending a woman’s right to wear the clothing she chooses. It’s time to change the attitudes of men.

When I’m in a space where women’s voices are not present, it’s my duty to shut down the sexist remarks and disparaging comments. And it’s not enough for me to just say that I don’t want to hear it. Systems of oppression exist not just because those preventing the oppressed group from advancing keep the wheels turning, but also because others who know these systems are wrong do nothing to alter it. Silence can be just as deadly as privilege, if used incorrectly.

So stop being silent. If you love your wife, your partner, your significant other, your girlfriend, your fiancée, then say so. If you are in a room with a group of guys, and they start objectifying women, say something.

Vida Boheme: So, I gather you like hitting ladies.

Virgil: Some ladies need to get hit.

Vida Boheme: Well then, it stands to reason that some men need to get hit back.

There’s an article that Mira shared with me, about Michael Kimmel and his efforts to promote feminism among men. The article is good, up until this paragraph:

But the real mission of these four days is explaining why feminism should appeal to men. After all, if the patriarchy confers benefits, why would guys give it up? Appeals to fairness are not enough, it seems; the current vogue is to persuade men their lives will be better if women have more freedom and better jobs and work-life balance.

This to me still isn’t quite right. I know and understand that by nature, humans are selfish and self-centered. Mira and I have talked about the benefits of being selfish in that doing for yourself often makes you more apt to do for others, or that the act of being selfish in many circumstances, can benefit more than just you. But when it comes to being selfish about the benefits drawn from the patriarchy, I would like to believe that simply seeing the negative results such a system of oppression has on those that don’t belong would be reason enough to abandon it.

The quote from the article is basically implying that we, as men, can keep women happy, and in turn, off of our backs and not nagging us, if we give women more freedom in their lives. But again, this does nothing to change our behavior as men. It still screams of male privilege and patriarchy. It’s still saying that women are not their own, that they aren’t capable unless *we* give them the freedom to be. I mean, I understand that by tearing down the patriarchy and establishing equality does just that, the fact that the article surmises the way to get men on board with being feminists is to use their male privilege to gift freedom and equality to women kinda stinks. I’m afraid that approaching it this way does nothing but stroke the male ego. The same goes for another quote in the article, about men approaching Kimmel and stating that they agree with everything the feminist movement says, but they can’t bring themselves to identify as feminists.

So do we eliminate this word from our vocabulary? Is this a new movement? To be a ‘closeted feminist’? It still equates the ideas of shame and lesser and othering to women. This is not the movement we, as men, need to be a part of. There is no shame in lifting any marginalized group to a place of equality. But to be a man who identifies as a feminist is more than just agreeing with what the movement says. It’s acting upon it. It’s modifying our own behavior, and planting seeds of change in others. That’s why it’s so important not to placate women – that’s an asinine view to begin with. How much of a pompous a-hole do you have to be to believe that a woman would fall all over you because you gave them the okay to go to work? Get the hell out of their way, man! We’re at a point where our job isn’t to focus on helping women by being their escort. Our job is to change our behavior and the idea that we somehow have a right to women, that we have a right to their bodies. Feel free to hold the door open for her, but understand, very clearly, that she is fully capable of not only opening that door, but ripping it off the damn hinges.

Instead, send out a clear message to the other men you interact with, that you will not accept other men objectifying women. Send a clear message that in spaces where women’s voices are not heard or represented, you will find a way to lift up their voices.

Don’t ‘defend’ women’s behavior. That’s not your place. Women don’t need our defense. Again, it goes to changing up the concepts of manhood and entitlement. We are not entitled to women. It is as simple as that. So stop using your privilege to dictate women’s spaces. Use your privilege to turn the system upside down.

Change the concept of manning up from one of machismo and misogyny to one of respect and pride. If you’re still at a loss as to what to do, then read this. And for crying out loud, if you are a man, and you agree with what the feminist movement says, then stop being scared that your manliness will fade if you call yourself a feminist. We exist. I promise.

No. I am a man. And I am a feminist. And I’m proud to be both.

(Mira posted this video before, but it’s so good it’s worth posting again)

Snowpiercer? Snowthanks.

imageSo Mira and I decided we were going to watch Snowpiercer the other night, as it looked somewhat interesting and had gotten decent reviews.

*****Warning: Spoiler Alert*****

Well, that was 2 hours and 6 minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Okay, so it wasn’t all that bad. By the end of the movie I was cheering each time someone died. Didn’t matter what team they played for…

Honestly, the entire concept of the movie seemed to be something out of the imagination of a five year old. A train, powered by a ‘Divine Engine’ (I’ll talk more about that later) that drives around the world, with a bunch of people on it – like ‘Speed’ meets ‘The Neverending Story’. I think a classmate of mine wrote a similar story in 1st grade.

The movie raised a lot of questions, the most prominent one being, “What the hell am I watching?” That question may never be answered. However, I do want to discuss the following, which occur in the movie in no particular order:

We see Mason, who is some figurehead representing Mr. Wilford, speaking to the occupants of the back cars of the train. I noticed her teeth were really horrible. Then, at another point, we see her remove the top teeth (the most nasty ones) as a top set of dentures. Later, as Mason is leading the group through the nicer cars, we see they have a dental office. So why the hell does Mason have such shitty teeth?? Why, if she runs so much of the train, doesn’t she get the damned things fixed? It’s not like she’s going anywhere…

And let’s talk about Curtis for a moment, yeah? The people in the back of the train clearly don’t have access to showers and proper methods of personal hygiene, so why does he cover his nose up when he goes and meets the guy hiding under the…whatever that stuff is…to get the Kronole? By the looks of everyone on the train, I somehow doubt the place smelled like Bath and Body Works.

I’m also clearly convinced that Claude (the woman who gets nailed in the head with a shoe) and the guy who looks like Rush Limbaugh and Steven Segal’s lovechild are robots. I mean, why not? You’ve got a train that runs on what we assume is either the quashed hopes of the occupants of the rear cars or the negative energy generated by the bad acting, so why not throw a few robots in the mix. Those bastards just wouldn’t die. Mira seems to think they’re vampires, however. Again, that’s plausible.

Why is there a clarvoyant? Was it really necessary for Yona to be clarvoyant? As if they weren’t robbing enough parts from other movies. I felt like I was watching the cutting room floor rejects of The Hunger Games (one of the parents should have stepped up as a Tribute, clearly), Silent Hill (I was waiting for the rebels to realize the masked men in plastic trashbags with axes only responded to light), Waterworld (just put an eyepatch over Mr. Wilford), and Ice Age (although I honestly wanted to see that polar bear pull out a Coke and offer it to the two kids). I think if Yona really were a clarvoyant, however, she would have sensed how horrible this movie really was and jumped off the train.

Although I was rather fond of the zombie ravers in the one train car, but I could’t quite understand why the scene with them attacking was necessary. Hearing their angry shouts as the group ran through (“I’ll kill you man. Hey, give that back.”) added much needed comic relief, though.

Could someone please explain to me, also, why there was a train car full of half naked people wearing Ugs and Eskimo coats? Or was that purely to make the fact that the two kids at the end had clothing warm enough to brave the Polar Vortex make sense?

And who decided that a giant block of Kronole (which is essentially C4 explosive) wasn’t overkill when blowing the gate open? I don’t think it would have mattered when they opened the gate, with that much explosive they were bound to annihilate all of the train’s ‘humanity’.

If anyone saw a glimmer of hope at the end of the movie (other than the glimmer of hope that either everyone died or that there wouldn’t be a sequel) please let me know now so I can unfriend you on Facebook. Seriously, a seventeen year old crackhead, excuse me, Kronolehead and a five year old are supposed to be able to survive the arctic with a probably very hungry polar bear roaming around? I bet that bear took one look at those kids and thought, Daddy’s gonna eat good tonight!

I have to say, it was very fortunate there was a zombie raver the size of that five year old, so he had something warm to wear.

And as Mira pointed out, here was this train, this self-sustaining ecosystem, hurtling around the world, running on this supposedly divine engine, not needing any source of fuel, but when parts broke down they were only replacable by child labor?  Again, no answer for this.

It really felt like everyone gave up halfway through the movie and did a few lines of coke (or Kronole?) and tried rewriting the script. Like the fact that Mr. Wilford was such a prophet he saw the horrible demise with the use of CW7 (which Mira also pointed out was a television station that played reruns of really crappy sitcoms) that he built this train, makes me wonder if he was the one who created the CW7 in the first place. If so, then he created the largest, most complicated system of oppression I’ve ever seen.

Though, the pregnant lady with the Uzi was a nice touch.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, don’t. Unless you have to choose between a root canal and this movie. Even then, you’re more likely to get something out of the root canal than by watching Snowpiercer. Truth be told, no one ever even explains why the name of the movie is Snowpiercer, which really sounds like it could be the title of a bad porn.

If you have already seen this movie, I’m sorry. If you liked this movie, I’m going to have to ask that you not talk to me for a little while until I can figure out how to look at you without asking, “What the actual fuck?”

I might have to write more movie reviews. It makes up for the crummy experiences.

Oppressor or Activist? Turns out, I’ve been both…and more.

I am an oppressor. I am an accomplice. I am an ally. I am an activist.

I have kept silent while others have made jokes about someone’s weight. I’ve felt my blood boil as someone made a racist remark, or said something derogatory about the trans community, but I kept my mouth shut.

Why? The reasons are endless – maybe some part of me thought it was true, or I didn’t feel like getting into an argument that day, or I knew if I spoke up, it wouldn’t do any good. The reasons don’t matter, though.resist_oppression_communism_will_prevail_india_revolution_operation_green_hunt_cpimaoist

Sometimes someone will make a comment about the weight of someone we both know, making a joke or some off-handed remark, I laugh along with them, while I should have, could have, said something, not in defense of their object of fun, but in response to the inappropriateness of the comment. Instead, I commented as well, not wanting to seem “weird” or “awkward” by going against the norm.

I am an oppressor.

black-tape-mouth-shut-no-speaking-700x45_660If I’m at work, where the majority of my co-workers are heterosexual and all of them, save me, are cisgender, I keep my mouth shut about many things. I haven’t officially come out at work, and so when I talk about being trans, or the trans community, I speak in hushed tones, not making eye contact, keeping my head down, as if the words I’m saying are something I should be ashamed of. When people use the word ‘tranny’, I cringe internally, but respond with “Yeah, I don’t see the big deal…” My silence is as dangerous as the loud voices of the bigots and discriminators.

I am an accomplice.

I am not proud of these situations. Because I should have stepped in and said it was wrong. I should have made it abundantly clear that their attitudes and opinions were their own to have, and solely their own to have. I didn’t. And I regret that.tumblr_m5ixrhNjhD1rpy84ao1_500

I went with Mira to a Lady Parts Justice rally. I was there to support her, but now because of the inspiring acts of the women that spoke and performed, I’ve been inspired, and I really want to speak at the next rally, to the importance of allies in the fight against the patriarchy telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.  Because if we do not stand alongside women, if we do not stop the regulation over their bodies by men who claim to know what’s best but essentially just want to dominate and put women “in their place”, then we all are subject to the repercussions of such a loss.

I am an ally.

During the last lame duck session in Michigan, there was a movement to change the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA for short), to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. There was another splinter group that thought it best to only include sexual orientation, and come back to revise the law later to encompass gender identity and expression. Years ago, I would have totally been all for the ‘half a pizza’ argument.

activistNot anymore, and not just because I’m now a part of the LGBT that has historically ended up without any slice of pizza, but because it’s simply wrong. And because of this, I went to a few ELCRA rallies, I went to TDOR (Transgender Day of Remembrance), and I want to speak out against the injustices faced by the trans community, a community I am a part of, and one that I fully embrace.

I am an activist.

I play all of these roles at varying times. When I identified as a lesbian and I fought for equality – I was an activist for the L and G, and an oppressor to the T. The B wasn’t even a concern, because in my head, they were simply confused. That has all obviously changed, for the better. I don’t want to ever play the role of the oppressor, and I think it’s even worse to play the role of the accomplice. Having the knowledge I do from my brilliant and insightful girlfriend, Mira, and my other activist friends, I’m learning when to recognize oppressive behaviors and attitudes in which I act as an accomplice.

Self awareness is just as important as self confidence. Being aware of my actions and words is just as important as saying them in the first place. I’m still going to screw up. But I will be aware of my missteps, and I will not silence my voice. If I am not empowering, I am oppressing, and I am contributing to the reason why equality has not yet been achieved.

If I don’t use the power I have from the privileges I have to raise up both the marginalized groups I belong to and those I do not belong to, then I am failing not only as an ally, but as an activist.

Everyone has some kind of privilege. It may not be obvious at first, but you know that saying – “There’s always someone worse off than you” – it’s true, and those who are “worse off” are most likely part of a marginalized group you do not belong to. If you have a place to live – then you can be an ally for the homeless, and use your privilege of stability of a roof over your head to help advocate for housing the homeless and providing them with an opportunity to achieve the same level of safety and stability you have.

If you are cisgender, you can ally yourself with the trans community, and use the power of being cisgender (and yes, you do have power, because you have privilege) in circles to support the trans community when the trans community is not represented.

I’m working on being an ally. I want to be a better ally. I feel I have the tools and the knowledge and the support to be a better ally.

Because it’s not always about my story.

How about you?

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Realizing My Role Models

I’ve written about wanting to be that rock that creates ripples in water. I’ve pointed out the fact that there aren’t a lot of visible trans men in role model positions, or at least are not readily accessible via media without already knowing who you’re looking for or sifting through Google results.

I’ve also written about my struggles with my lack of dysphoria, and how I didn’t think I was trans, because I wasn’t miserable, despite the nagging voice in my head trying to convince me otherwise.

Mira, my partner (who has her own, wonderful blog) asked me who my role models were. I stumbled, I fumbled for words. I responded with,

“I don’t really have any.”

and then I wondered why. Which led me down a path of reflection, and so in this blog post, I want to thank the men who have been in my life, and whether they realized it or not, have taught me some incredibly valuable lessons on both manhood and acceptance.

First, I want to thank my friend Erik, a wonderful guy with a wonderful wife and a wonderful son (who will also grow up into a wonderful guy because of his father). Erik is the living definition of an ally. He has taught me what it means to be an ally. His words in support of who I am makes me less fearful that I’ll be rejected by manhood as I transition.

He’s living in Denmark now, navigating a new plane of existence. But when he was here, he threw a couple of “Man Parties.” And no, they were not misogynistic guyfests. In fact, it was more about the craft beer than talking about women. I remember him sending me a message on Facebook, saying he didn’t want to be a jerk the first time around, but that he thought I was one of the coolest people around and he wanted me to come to the second party. Maybe he saw something there that I hadn’t seen yet, because at that time I was still identifying as a butch lesbian, but regardless, the message touched me and still brings tears to my eyes.

Erik is unconditional in his friendship, and in his support. I’d see so many times when he would comment on an LGBT story, stating his anger over the injustice done to a community that he was not a part of, but allied himself with. Erik, you were my first “bro”, and I thank you for showing me that I can be a man without attaching all that baggage to the word. And thank you for simply accepting me as I am, without making me define myself to you.

Next, is my friend Brian. I met Brian several years ago. He welcomed me into his house and quite honestly, into his family. I work with his wife, and she’s just as amazing as he is. Brian has shown me that you can love with emotion, and it’s okay. He and his wife are madly, endlessly in love, and because of them, I know what love is supposed to look like, and I’ve found that. Brian has always seen me as me, and has even threatened to smack me upside the head when I’ve made a ridiculously dumb decision. He’s been somewhat of a father figure to me, showing me that love and emotion are okay in manhood.

Brian has shown me that I can be a man without showing that machismo. That manhood can be full of understanding and love and family without compromising masculinity. Thank you, Brian, for showing me that manhood can be defined by subtle masculinity and strong love. Thank you for showing me that emotions don’t take away from, but add to, the definition of a man.

To my friend Greg. I know we only met a while ago and even then it was for a handful of hours, but in those hours you taught me a lot. You taught me that standing behind the woman you love doesn’t make you less of a man, but rather, lifts both of you to a place of understanding and respect. You showed me that being a male feminist is actually a thing, and that you don’t have to emasculate yourself to do so. You showed me that being an ally does not mean you speak for others, but with them, and never louder than them. You taught me that respect for women is something that comes naturally, and is not only the right way, but the only way to love.

To Jessie, a fellow trans man – thank you for showing me what strength in character is. And thank you for showing me that compromising who you are is never an option. I look forward to this journey with you, and I’m really proud to know you. Same goes for you, Nico. You were my first trans “bro”, and hold a special place of friendship with me. You’ve helped to show me that struggles can be overcome. You’ve also helped me to look for the good in everyone, regardless of any biases or preconceptions I weigh myself down with.

These are the men in my life. Some have been there for a fleeting moment, others for years. But you all have taught me that a man, by his own virtue, can define his own manhood. And because of you, I am molding my own definition of manhood – one that will hopefully, eventually, negate the baggage that comes with the concept.

So in answer to Mira’s question – it turns out I do have role models. None of them grace the big screen, or have won Nobel Peace prizes. But when I look at how I want to model my life as a trans man, these are the men I turn to.

And on the flip-side, something else I’ve learned, mostly through the help of Mira – is that not all of my role models must be male. It’s not a requirement that men should only have male role models. Having female role models is not only not going to reduce my ability to call myself a man, but it’s something that is necessary, as men are not the only creatures with qualities I want to model.

So, to Laura, you welcomed me in as family, and you’ve taught me that mansplaining is wrong. Always. You’ve taught me how to stand up for myself in subtle ways that leave a lasting impact. You’ve taught me that in the end, if I’m not happy, then I need to change something. You’ve let me know that it’s been okay to screw up and make stupid decisions, and you’ve told me “I told you so.” in ways that didn’t make me feel lesser, but respected. Thank you for never making me feel ridiculous or useless.

To Paige, for navigating your way in a male dominated industry, and becoming a force to be reckoned with. I have the utmost respect for you because you taught me that women can go toe-to-toe with men, and be absolutely awesome while doing so. You have shown me strength and grace. You have shown me acceptance. You have shown me that it’s perfectly okay not to lay down and take the bullshit that the world can throw at you simply because some aspect of society has tried to define your role as a woman as such.

To my new friend, Amy. You’ve shown me what internal strength is. I’ve only gotten to talk to you a handful of times, and always in a censored fashion (which needs to change, soon, btw), but in those conversations, your ability to completely accept what’s happening and deal with the punches as you navigate your day has taught me patience. Your innate ability to know what to say, despite your fear of offending, is immeasurable, and you’ve taught me to open my ears and eyes to others around me and listen to what they are saying without adding my own biases.

And finally, to Mira. My love, my life. You have taught me strength, perseverance, and grace. You have taught me that it’s okay to be happy without regret. You’ve taught me that I am capable of change, and you have taught me that unconditional love is not only real, but completely attainable. You have given me knowledge and shown me what respect truly means. Watching you navigate this world and hearing you speak and captivate an audience, a crowd, or a small group of people – it is not only an honor, but something I aspire to do. You have taught me that I can be who I am, and I can do so without apology.

These are my role models. Men and women from all walks of life, cisgender, heterosexual, transgender, with different backgrounds and experiences. And it feels really, really good to have this realization, that I do have role models, and that they all are helping me (whether they know it or not) to become the person I am. The person I’m supposed to be. My journey of self-discovery is one I may have to go alone at times, but with these people as my role models, I’ll never really “be” alone.

And because of all of this, I can be that rock in the water.