Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Trans vs Trans*

So about six months ago I started to see trans* poping up throughout the internet. As someone who is transsexual, genderqueer and has been educating on trans issues for many years I kinda felt it was my place to look deeper into the meaning of it. The theory is that trans* is more inclusive because, it is open to more communities and therefore is preferable to use. I however, do not see it that way and this is why.

Trans* (with an asterisk) is a term that has come from academia instead of the transgender, transsexual and genderqueer communities to describe these communities and some argue also other gender-variant identities. Trans (without an asterisk) came from the communities it was meant to describe. Too often do the trans communities get described by professionals whether in academia, the medical profession, social work (my profession) and psychology. Rarely do we take and create terms for ourselves partially due to the shame and transphobia within trans communities, the fact that many transsexuals may be trans-experienced but not identified and, that only in a few big cities are there enough of us to form our own communities. For me then it makes sense to use the term our community created instead of one forged from the ivory towers of academia, despite my own priviledge from being able to be part of academia (just sent in my MSW applications yesterday) which many members of the trans communities do not.

I also have a concern about lumping all gender-variant communities in with transgender, transsexual and genderqueer communities. For one transsexuals simply change sex and may be gender-variant (such as myself) or not (like most others). In addition I feel this marginalizes and erases the experience of cis gender-variant experiences. The example I will give is butch women. Butch women are often being placed under the trans* umbrella with or without their consent. What this does in my mind is that it erases butch as a legitimate identity for cis women somehow despite the fact that their sex and gender identity, but merely because their expression is masculine it is put under the trans* umbrella. What I propose is if you are looking to do that say trans (which includes transgender, transsexual and genderqueer communities) and gender-variant communities.

These two main concerns are only added to by the fact that it cannot be said in speech and that the asterisk is a wildcard character connoting that anything could be used at "trans" in that case would only be a prefix. But, that is grammar stuff lets not go too far down that road.

I know this is controvertial to some (in particular genderqueer activists), but I feel that there are some requirements/ common experiences that define trans which I don't want to be erased. This isn't to say that I'm going to go around policing identity, if someone tells me they are trans I take them at their word. Regardless these are the common experiences I feel are part of trans identity which are the spokes hold the umbrella together.
1) Some experience/ or desire for sex and/or gender transition.
2) Experience/ or desire for gender expression change
3) Experience/ or desire for pronoun and/or name change
I put them in the order of importance. I have not seen anyone who identified as trans or trans-experienced and continued to do so years down the road. So it is for these many reasons that I wish trans* would stay in academia and, why I will stick to my community made trans.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

GLBT Village in Ottawa

So just in this past week Ottawa officially got a GLBT village. No it didn't just happen overnight where all the queers decided to move in, its just naturally happened over decades that the Bank and Somerset area is a GLBT predominant neighbourhood. In the past week however, due to lobbying by the Village committee city council finally approved the designation and put up street signs designating the area.

Now I have some issues with the Village committee including the use of transgender often instead of trans, excluding the word queer, and often using gay as if it's an umbrella term. As well I consider there to be better uses of our time and money as Ottawa queer people and, that essentially it is a project that shows the privilege of those involved. However, I am supportive of having a queer village in Ottawa and beautifying the neighbourhood with murals, rainbow flags and other art projects. So despite my critiques overall I'm in favour of the concept.

I especially get behind it when I hear cis and straight people saying about how they feel "their" neighbourhood is being invaded and so they are going to move, or that now they are going to avoid the neighbourhood. At that point I say good riddence, take your bigotry with you. Another one I keep seeing is that what about having a "straight village" which goes along the lines of the people who I hear saying they should have a "straight Pride". Look almost every place on earth is a straight village so seriously stop being an idiot. Its these type of people I wish I could give a "how to not be a douchbag" workshop.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Edition - Remembering Our Dead

It is just like me to somehow wind up at midnight on Halloween in a dark park by myself which I wouldn't be surprised if it was once a burial ground. See Halloween is much more then a fun holiday where people get to dress up. It is also based upon ancient Celtic ceremonies for the New Year when it was believed that the land of the living was close to the land of the dead. We don't really know exactly what happened as the ancient Celts left few written records, but a time to remember the dead is certainly there. I hope you have gone out and had fun dressed up and, hopefully dressed up in a costume not a culture. If you don't get the reference there was a campaign started by students in the States to stop racist and cultural appropriating costumes. If you're wondering what I did Saturday I was a gothic Tuxedo Mask and today I was a sexy kitty.

Anyway back to the creepy park. I wound up in the park by accident due to bus trouble and found myself in it at midnight and contemplating the dead. I found a tree and tried to honour the Native ancestors of this land and my own by pulling out my bag of tobacco I carry with me and offering it. Earlier in the night I honoured my Grandfather, French-Canadian ancestry and all the Canadian soldiers whom have died by going to the grave of the Unknown Soldier at the War Memorial. I reflected on their sacrifice and then poured out a small bottle of alcohol by the grave. I hope he likes rum.

Now I reflect on my queer ancestors. Those who may not be of my blood but have died due to being queer or made large impacts on queer people's lives while they were alive. So tonight I will honour three people Jamie Hubley, Sylvia Rivera and Charlotte Whitton.

Jamie Hubley was a gay Ottawa youth whom committed suicide a few weeks ago. Many of the youth volunteers and clients at my work were friends with him or knew him. He has been honoured a lot already, but I feel the need to do so again. While alive he fought for a Rainbow Club in his school and was a wonderful Lady Gaga singing glee kid and figure skater. Unfortunately a combination of mental illness and bullying were too much for him and he took his own life.

Sylvia Rivera was one of the first people to start the famous Stonewall riots. Stonewall became coopted by white gay and lesbian activits, but it was started by latina and black trans women and Sylvia was right front and centre of it. After Stonewall she became a tireless GLBTQ advocate starting many queer organizations and constantly pressuring goverments to stop their bigotry. She died in 2002 from liver cancer.

Charlotte Whitton was the first woman mayor of a major Canadian city and she did so here in Ottawa. She was a whitty firebrand and a feminist. Famously the mayor of London asked "If I sniff your flower Madam would you blush?" to which she replied "If I were to pull your chains Sir would you flush?" as example of her character. We don't know for certain if she was a lesbian however, she never married and had a woman partner whom she lived with for many years and sent love letters. After her partner's death she wrote about her lonliness, but propelled herself further into politics.

Who are your queer ancestors?

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Vlog, the National Post and more

I've been getting a lot of responses to the vlog post (though interesting none as youtube comments) that I made about cis people talking for trans people. There has been many events over the past month starting from Ottawa Pride where I have gotten angry about the coopting of trans experiences and needs by cis people. It should be important to understand that not all of the situations that have recently experienced can I talk about. If you haven't seen the video here it is:
One thing that I have found is that cis straight people whom have seen it are some of the most supportive even when they do not understand the concepts. As such there have been some requests for me to make a trans 101 video which I may do. Where I have encountered the most resistence is among cis queers who rarely disagree wholeheartedly, but tend to try to excuse others problematic or outright discriminatory actions.

The day after I posted my video however, a large controversy occurred surrounding the publishing of a transphobic ad in the National Post. The ad which shows a young child says to stop teaching her to question whether she is a, "...boy, transexual, transgendered, intersexed or two-spirted." Understandably, a lot of anger went towards the National Post by queer people and a coalition of queer-serving organizations led by the 519 Community Centre, EGALE and, the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youthline sent a letter condemning the ad. The National Post since wrote an official apology and stated that the money recieved for the ad would go to a queer charity. The apology has since been edited multiple times as in the original they claimed the issue was surrounding sexuality when it was directed towards gender and stated that one's sexuality was a choice, which provoked continued condemation of the paper.

Yet, in all this condemnation of the National Post cis gay activists did exactly what I complained about in my video. In many cases - though not all, some acted in amazing solidarity which I thank them for - they made the ad about homophobia and anti-gay issues when it very much targets trans, intersex and two-spirt people. One example of this is whom made a post along those lines and, made matters worse by using transgender as the umbrella term when many trans, intersex and two-spirit people definately do not identify with that term. I made a comment critiquing them, but they have not approved it in over 12 hours. Cis queers really need to learn solidarity activism when transphobia occurs instead of either trying to speak for trans people or coopt our struggles for in particular cis gay and lesbian agendas.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

TBTN ... and trans women?

Dear Take Back the Night Organizers,

I was at TBTN this year and have been many years in the past – I believe this was my seventh. TBTN is an important event and I thank you for organizing it. For many women it can be an empowering event where they can stand up and feel safe on streets where harassment may be an issue they face on a regular basis. A few years ago I was asked to speak on the plight of trans-women as well as trans inclusion in the women’s community. It is partially due to this experience that I feel the need to write this letter.

At the rally before the march it was asked why we were here being, “to stop violence against women.” Afterwards a small group yelled, “...and trans women!” Now I have to say I’m fairly well connected with trans women in Ottawa and from talking to others whom knew the group none of the group were trans women. I certainly don’t expect the organizers to control what people chant or yell nor, am I sure if any organizers were involved or not let alone heard what was yelled and then clapped to by those around however, I would like to explain the problem in that exclamation.

By stating “...and trans women,” this puts in the implicit assumption that trans women are not included in the word “women.” This puts trans women as somehow other as somehow not fully women. Now certainly trans women and cis women have some different experiences, but this could be said of white women and women of colour or, working-class women and rich women or, straight women and queer women, women with disabilities and able-bodied women or women who have been involved in sex work and women in other professions. I am sure the list could go on greatly.

Certainly the statement was said with the concept to be inclusive of trans women and to oppose experiences of violence against us. However, the statement only further marginalize a population whom many of which already would not feel comfortable about coming to TBTN due to the history of oppression by cis women towards trans women. This is a history where trans women’s voices become either excluded entirely or become unheard. This history is one of erasure or outright bigotry, most famously characterized by the women-born-women movement – which the term is problematic in and of itself as trans women were still born women just of a different sex.

I would like you to know that I appreciate all the wonderful work putting on TBTN you did, but I also felt this point needed to be addressed. Perhaps next year a trans woman’s voice needs to be heard again and, it should be stated that TBTN is for women of all identities, experiences and backgrounds. I know that I am welcome, even if I did experience transphobia at TBTN years ago, but other trans women should know this too without such a problematic statement.

Jade Pichette

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cis Queers and Trans Politics

Lately a number of discussions I've had with friends has only furthered me to think about some of the issues of cis queers and trans politics. For those who haven't heard the term cis before it refers to people who generally match the gender identity that society has given then based upon their sex (for instance male and a man, female and a woman). Cis could be defined differently or more elaborately, but that is the basic point. A lot of my thoughts surrounding cis people participating in trans politics came out around the Trans Day of Remembrance in Ottawa last year. Now there were a lot of issues with TDOR even within the trans communities, but many cis queer activists came out to TDOR. Instead of simply supporting the trans community they in many ways made it a protest against the police. Even calling a friend of mine whom is trans who organized the alternate march that didn't start at the police station a hypocrite because, she was friendly towards some of the people who did start there.

In addition to this a banner drop was made off the highway by the police station, by some cis activists. The banner said "remember stonewall". I'm not sure that they realized the irony of remembering an event that was started primarily by black and latina trans women and resulted in a movement coopted by primarily gays and lesbians whom left trans people behind.

Another incident that has prompted this post was yesterday at one of the Captial Pride events a cis queer community organizer whom I usually like, used the word tranny at a podium in front of a crowd of mostly straight cis people. Now I from time to time refer to myself as a tranny and, at times am okay with very close friends of mine using it. However, it is along the same lines as the 'n' word for the black community. Why did that not provoke condemation while if someone said 'faggot' or the 'n' word it most likely would have?

The cis queer community very much needs to learn proper solidarity with the trans community. This is not to say that their aren't cis queers who are amazing supports, but the community as a whole really needs to get it's act together.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sex Work is Real Work and Feminist

This week while I've been in away in Toronto the Women's Worlds 2011 conference has been going on in Ottawa. This is a major feminist conference where many women come together and discuss the needs and experiences of women. One of the major events that came out of this conference included a solidarity rally for the hundreds of missing Native women to support the Sisters in Spirit campaign. Given these important actions I cannot believe at how appaled I am to hear that sex workers were derided and verbally harassed at the conference.

Sex workers include people of all genders but have disproportionate numbers of cis and trans women. It is uncomprehensible to me women whom call themselves feminist who will then attack and insult the choices (some willing, some out of necessity) of women sex workers. Not all parts of the sex trade are pretty or consentual, but the vast majority is based on a women's choice. Isn't women having the right of choice what feminism is all about or have I somehow missed the true point which includes policing other women?

I am of the opinion that sex work is an important part of our society and should be honoured as a sacred act or at least as a legitimate profession. If you don't like sex work then fine, but the way you reduce it does not include harming other women it includes alleviating conditions of poverty, racism and transphobia that lead some women into sex work out of necessity. To any other feminists out there whom still disagree how would you feel if I took away your choice?

To all the others in Ottawa whom agree I suggest you find a way to support POWER (Prostitutes of Ottawa-Gatineau Work Educate & Resist).

EDIT: I would like to add that I was informed that the missing Native women's protest was boycotted by Families of Sisters in Spirit (which was the orignal group I was thinking of). This was due to the fact that only one family member was invited and overall Families of Sisters in Spirit were denied the right to speak. Amnesty and KAIROS joined the boycott as well. So this only proves further marginalization of women's voices at this conference.