Tag Archives: Broadly

Stand Up For Transgender Equality: A Reading List

Photo: Ted Eytan

I was in the lobby of a theater in Washington, D.C. when I saw the first of the tweets about the Trump administration’s decision to stymie protections for transgender students on the federal level. It wasn’t until the play ended and I was on the Metro home that I had cell service; I began to piece together what exactly had happened. My palms were sweating. I tried to make conversation with my friend, but I felt nauseated and heartsick.

I thought of the transgender and gender non-conforming kids in the youth group where I volunteer and the outspoken, proud, lovely trans kids in our county’s schools. I thought of Gavin Grimm, who’ll stand up against the Gloucester County School Board in front of the Supreme Court on March 28. I thought of how often trans folks have to reduce their stories to make them palatable to cisgender people, smoothing all of our glittering edges into sameness, rather than celebrating our differences, to win over those on the fence.

That night, I felt hopeless and scared. Today, I’m angry. It’s Friday as I finish this post, and the people of Chicago will protest for trans liberation tonight at the corner of Wacker and Wabash. I wish I could be there with them, to celebrate our community’s strength and resilience and to honor the lives of the seven trans women of color murdered in 2017: Mesha Caldwell, 41; Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28; JoJo Striker, 23; Keke Collier, 24; Chyna Gibson, 31; Ciara McElveen, 21; and Jaquarrius Holland, 18. Seven women, and it’s only March. Unacceptable and terrifying.

This Women’s History Month, I implore you: educate yourself and stand up for your trans sisters, not only your cis-ters. Stand up for all of your transgender and gender non-conforming siblings, especially our youth, who need advocacy and protection now more than ever.

1. “Trans Rights Already at Risk in Trump’s Bumbling, Bigoted Trainwreck of a Presidency.” (Rachel, Autostraddle, February 2017)

This article on Autostraddle was instrumental in my understanding of what exactly the Department of Justice put forth two weeks ago:

Under Obama, the Justice Department had been appealing a court injunction that prevents trans students nationwide from accessing the bathroom or other facilities consistent with their gender. Under Trump and Sessions, the first order of business was to cease that appeal, and to allow a lower court injunction to harm trans students unopposed.

Unfortunately, this lack of action? reversal? doesn’t bode well for trans rights. Rachel goes on to quote Mara Keisling of the National Center of Transgender Equality:

“While the immediate impact of this initial legal maneuver is limited, it is a frightening sign that the Trump administration is ready to discard its obligation to protect all students… Transgender students are not going away, and it remains the legal and moral duty of schools to support all students.”

Rachel also describes Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ historical support of anti-LGBTQ legislation, which is unsurprising but scary all the same, and explains how Gavin Grimm’s Supreme Court case could affect the administration’s decision to cease the appeal.

Update 3/6/17: The Supreme Court has referred Gavin Grimm’s case to the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Fourth Circuit and will no longer hear his case on March 28. Read more at NYT and BuzzFeed.

2. “Janet Mock: Young People Get Trans Rights. It’s Adults Who Don’t.” (Janet Mock, The New York Times, February 2017)

Janet Mock, transgender author and activist, is the author of two memoirs: Redefining Realness: My Path To Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More and the upcoming Firsts: A Memoir of the Twenties Experience. In this passionate op-ed, Mock does what she does best: Use her personal experiences to advocate for trans youth. Mock contrasts her different school experiences–one with supportive adults, one without.

It’s adults like those in the Trump administration who don’t realize that pitting young people against one another has consequences. It encourages some to be bullies and turns others into sinister objects.

When trans students are told that they cannot use public facilities, it doesn’t only block them from the toilet — it also blocks them from public life. It tells them with every sneer, every blocked door, that we do not want to see them, that they should go hide and that ultimately they do not belong. When schools become hostile environments, students cannot turn to them. Instead they are pushed out. And without an education, it makes it that much more difficult to find a job, support themselves and survive.

Related: “What Trans Youth Need to Hear Right Now, According to Trans Adults.” (Sarah Karlan, BuzzFeed LGBT, March 2017) This isn’t longform, but it’s rare that trans kids have the opportunity to hear from trans adults who are happy and thriving.

3. “Pseudo-Feminist Trolls are Still Trotting Out Tired, Anti-Trans Ideology.” (Larissa Pham, Village Voice, February 2017)

Transphobia isn’t exclusively conservative territory. There are self-proclaimed progressives and feminists whose philosophies harm trans people in subtle and overt ways. Trans-exclusionary radical feminists, better known as TERFs, are obsessed with the false notion that trans women aren’t really women, and, unfortunately, their illogical arguments continue to appeal to the fearful.

4. Telling Our Own Stories.

The following essays and interviews feature the experiences of trans and gender non-conforming artists, authors, activists, students, cartoonists, administrative assistants, analysts and teachers.

“Telling Trans Stories Beyond ‘Born in the Wrong Body.'” (Meredith Talusan, Tiq Milan, Jacob Tobia, and Nico Fonseca, BuzzFeed LGBT, May 2016)

“Transgender Stories: ‘People Think We Wake Up and Decide to Be Trans.'” (Kate Lyons, The Guardian, July 2016)

“My Life as a Trans Woman Teaching High School in a ‘Bathroom Bill’ State.” (Aila Boyd, Broadly, February 2017)

“This is What It’s Like to Be a Trans Kid in a Conservative School.” (Nico Lang, Rolling Stone, March 2017)

“Tomboys Don’t Cry: Edgar Gomez Interviews Ivan Coyote.” (LARB, December 2016)

“Five Trans Cartoonists Respond to Bathroom Hysteria.” (The Nib, March 2017)

The Humanizing Properties of Depression: Daphne Merkin Talks to Gabby Bess

At Broadly, Gabby Bess — a writer who has depression — interviews life-long sufferer Daphne Merkin, and reviews Merkin’s new memoir, This Close to Happy: A Reckoning With Depression, in the process. Although Bess reports that the book doesn’t offer any prescriptions or promises for relief, she seems to find comfort in identification with the frequently suicidal author.

“…during our call, we agree that life is bad. It’s clear from her own case that money can’t buy happiness—it can only buy the stints in psychiatry units, or therapy sessions, or however you take your self-care. Wanting to die while living among the rich and being one them, perhaps, makes the emptiness of our current setup and its values all the more pronounced.

“There’s a lot that’s terrible about life. I think some people have a guard up against it. They overlook it,” she says. “I think that people who suffer from depression are sort of finely tuned to it. I write somewhere in my book that depression is the loss of necessary illusions. You need a certain amount of illusion to live.” She adds, “Depression can be very humanizing. I’ve thought to myself, If [Donald] Trump suffered from some type of depression, he’d be a different person.”

However, until we change the world, which might be more possible now than ever, we need to take care of ourselves and continue living. Merkin recognizes that life is all she has: “I think [suicide] affords a kind of—this is putting it strangely—a paradoxical relief to a very depressed person, to think there’s one way out of it,” she tells me over the phone. “I would somehow think if I commit suicide then I’ll be happy, but where am I going to be happy?”

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The High Price of Breaking Ground

McMahon hired her in 1997, and Chyna became the first woman to battle male wrestlers in the WWF ring, much to the chagrin of many fans, who protested Chyna’s presence by throwing batteries at her and spreading nasty rumors. (One was that she had the world’s largest clit; another, that she had a penis.) But the abuse didn’t seem to stop her. During one 1999 fight, Triple H kicked Chyna in the breasts. The announcer said nothing; when Chyna retaliated by socking Triple H in the balls, he gulped: “I still don’t know if I’m comfortable with this.” After Chyna beat Triple H a few minutes later, retired wrestler Mick Foley, in character as Mankind, hit on her. She hit him in the balls, too, and said, “In case you don’t get it, that means, ‘no.’”

“I let the boys do their thing,” Chyna said in a 2015 interview with Vince Russo. “My job was to keep my mouth shut.” Most the time, she beat her male opponents and became known as the “Ninth Wonder of the World.”

“She was in there not only wrestling guys but beating guys,” says former WWE host Jim Roberts. “She was doing stuff that only guys were doing at the time, and that I don’t believe any female has done since. What she did was incredible. She was really revolutionary in the wrestling business.”

At Broadly, Mitchell Sunderland examines WWE star Chyna’s accomplishments, struggles and legacy, and the complex challenges women face in a world fraught sexism. She died on the same day as Prince, but his passing isn’t what might eclipse her.

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Present-Day Witchcraft: Seven Stories About Witches

I’m in no way immune to the lure of the witchy, and honestly, I don’t want to resist. I bought a small piece of sunstone from my local metaphysical shop, because I read that sunstone encourages mental clarity.

When I arrived at the shop, I awkwardly browsed until I got up the courage to ask the saleswoman how to choose a crystal. She said to hold each stone and see which felt right—felt special. I was skeptical, but I swear the stone I ended up purchasing buzzed with warmth when I held it in my hand. It was inexpensive and pretty, and I think it’s on a bookshelf somewhere, now.

I wore a cheap hematite ring, too, until it cracked in half while I was tapping my glands during doula class, which sent me into a temporary existential tailspin: Should I get a new one? Was it just a cheap piece of jewelry? Was it a sign that doula work would disrupt my stability? Did I not need the ring anymore?

I can’t put it better than Autostraddle’s Trans Editor (and Bruja femme) Mey Rude, who wrote, “We’ve said it before (and so have other people), but we’re definitely living in an age of the Resurgence of the Witch. This feels especially true for queer women. We’re embracing our family traditions and our cultural heritage. We’re learning about herbology and tarot cards and candle magic. We’re dressing like extras from Wicked or The Craft. We’re forming sisterhoods and cultivating auras.”

1. “Why We Are Witches: An A-Camp Roundtable.” (Mey Rude and Autostraddle Staff, Autostraddle, June 2015)

Mey, Laura, Ali, Beth and Cecelia discuss building altars, using Tarot cards, learning their family histories, reclaiming religious rituals and so much more! Read more…

On Beauty: A Reading List About Makeup

My makeup routine is nonexistent. I wore mascara to a presentation on my birthday last week, and before that, I had my friend apply my red lipstick in an Au Bon Pain in New York City. I’m uncoordinated, anxious and fidgety—my idea of hell is eyeliner application. But I appreciate the artistry that goes into the creation and execution of gorgeous makeup. I’ve watched tutorials, and I’ve watched my friends draw wings on their faces. They enjoy it, and I am glad for them. Beauty criticism analyzes the ways we can subvert a society that would have us subsumed by self-loathing. We use the tools we’ve been given. Makeup, then, can be a weapon. And it can be damn fun. Read more…

Celebrate Pride: The Importance of LGBTQ History

Photo: Matt Kane

Learning more about the history of the LGBTQ movement is a goal of mine. I came out to my friends and immediate family last year, and I feel as though I need to make up for lost time. I’ve added dozens of books to my to-read pile, like This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of ColorHold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America. Learning where I come from and to whom I owe my respect and gratitude is important to my self-acceptance and growth as a queer person. This Pride series continues with stories and interviews surrounding LGBTQ history in the United States. Read more…

Six Stories for Mother’s Day

Photo: Lori

My mom and I won’t be together on Mother’s Day this year. I’m in western New York for a friend’s wedding. She’s home in Maryland—relaxing, I hope, but more likely preparing for another week of teaching. We have a lot in common, especially our love of books and thrift stores. We carry our weight in the same parts of our bodies (sorry for mentioning it, Ma). We both have short hair. We have the same middle name and the same urge to overachieve.

One thing I admire about my mom is her fearlessness when it comes to starting over. A musician for decades, she went to graduate school (again!) in her 40s and became a children’s librarian. She parted ways with the church our family attended for a decade and found a new spiritual home, a church (coincidentally, I’m sure) two blocks from my own apartment. And she’s always down for trying interesting foods, new hobbies, new clothes or exciting hair colors—currently, she’s sporting a platinum pixie cut with lavender tips. She always surprises me. Our relationship isn’t always smooth, but it’s ours.

This week, I’ve collected stories about new moms, missing moms, dead moms and boomer moms, if only to demonstrate that there is no one way to have a mother or not have a mother. Some of us have toxic relationships with our moms and are better off—mentally, physically, spiritually—without them. Some of us have lost our moms to diseases, accidents, or time itself. And still others of us are becoming moms—every day, another Facebook friend announces she’s pregnant. Mother’s Day can be a day of meditation or just another Sunday. But I hope, truly, that it is a day of contentment, no matter how you celebrate.

(Past lists on this holiday include A Collection of Stories About Not Choosing Motherhood and Reading List: Mother’s Day.) Read more…

What is Sista Grrrl’s Riot? Punk Music, Collaboration and Revolution

Photo: Kate Milford. Punk musician Tamar-kali Brown, founder of Sista Grrrl Riots, performs at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in 2010.

Vice’s new vertical, Broadly, is off to a strong start with reporting like Gaby Bess’ “Alternatives to Alternatives: the Black Grrrls Riot Ignored.” Tamar-kali Brown, Maya Glick, Simi Stone, and Honeychild Coleman founded Sista Grrrl Riots, an alternative safe space for black women punks to rock out and revolutionize. The founders continue to support each other and other women making music to this day.

On their first flyer:

“It was a lipstick heart with our silhouettes in it, like Charlie’s Angels, and we had weapons. I brought my father’s machetes and BB guns for our shoot.” But unlike the flyer’s silhouetted BB guns and machetes would suggest, the riot’s real ammunitions were electric violins, bass guitars, and the raging voices of women who were lifelong punk outsiders. On this momentous night at Brownies, a now-defunct rock club on Avenue A, these four women had found their place, playing to a packed crowd who could finally see versions of themselves onstage.

If you bore passing witness to this night, you might have casually referred to Brown, Glick, Stone, and Coleman as Riot Grrrls, if you didn’t know any better. They were girls. They were angry. They were tired of playing shitty gigs and taking a backseat to the boys. But these women would scoff at the thought of designating themselves “Riot Grrrls,” or just plain correct you. “You had Riot Grrrl,” Brown explained, “and this was a Sista Grrrl’s Riot.”

Their dedication to visibility and representation, in addition to sisterhood and killer musicianship, should not be underestimated:

The Riot Grrrl box may have been decidedly off-limits in the eyes of Brown and other black women who couldn’t see themselves in the movement, but as [Rhonda] Davis points out, these women shirked boxes, created their own wave, and reclaimed rock for black women. After all, rock music is black music. While the Sista Grrrls didn’t see themselves in Riot Grrrl or in the men they had been playing with in bands, they saw themselves in each other. “I got what Riot Grrrl was about. I didn’t think it was exclusive, but it didn’t feel inclusive to me,” said Brown. “I didn’t see myself or my story, and so that’s why Sista Grrrl came about later on–out of other women of color that I knew who were punk rock and navigated that scene and had similar feelings about it. Sista Grrrl was my response to Riot Grrrl because it just felt super white.”

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