At Rolling Stone, Laura Rena Murray chronicles the dangers young trans women face as they struggle to survive on the streets of New York City. Often the targets of violence, one in two trans women in the city will become HIV-positive before she turns 24. Turning tricks to bring in cash, some have gone so far as to attempt suicide simply to gain access to a bed for the duration of the mandatory 72-hour watch period. “I just needed a bed,” says Scarlet. “I did what I had to do to sleep for Christmas.”
In the Dominican Republic, where Sophie was born, her mother struggled with addiction and sent Sophie to live with her grandmother in New York when she was six months old. Her grandmother, who was able to send the family money, food and clothing, Sophie says, by pimping out undocumented girls, was nearly beaten to death by two men when Sophie was in the fourth grade. Both her grandmother and her father hit her, she says, and sometimes locked her out of the house. “It was more hatred than discipline,” she recalls. “My dad would beat me in the shower with a belt and punch me in the face, calling me a faggot. Then he’d turn around and say, ‘I love you.’ How can you treat me like this if you love me?”
She began living on the streets at 16, attending school whenever possible, but more often worrying about where to eat, shower and sleep each night. “You can’t go to school smelly and drawing attention,” she says. “I would take cat baths at Starbucks.” Now, at 21, she’s hoping to build a civil-rights career, either as a lawyer or a social worker. The next morning, in fact, she has an interview for an eight-week internship at the American Civil Liberties Union. “I know I’m going to be a very successful person,” she says. “I want [my father] to learn he lost something.”
There are now more than 350,000 transgender people under the age of 25 in the United States, the majority in the largest cities of New York, California, Florida and Texas – and an estimated 20 percent of them lack secure housing, though many service providers believe that figure is low. Craig Hughes of the Coalition for Homeless Youth notes that the federal definition of homelessness does not include those who trade sex for shelter; instead, they are considered “unstably” housed. “There are thousands who go uncounted,” Hughes says. “They are disconnected from services, sleep on multiple couches a month and spend some nights trading sex for shelter.”
33-year-old editor and publisher Jann Wenner at the 1979 relaunch of 'Look' magazine, which would last only a year. (AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis)
In the end, Jann Wenner was always going to sell Rolling Stone. The current timing is certainly unprompted and a bit of a surprise — Wenner, along with his son Gus, the president and chief operating officer of Wenner Media, announced this week the magazine is now open for bids — but there had been indications in recent years that the once groundbreaking magazine would soon be top edited by someone other than Wenner.
Wenner has passed on opportunities to sell Rolling Stone in the past, including an offer of $500 million that he turned down two decades ago. But in 2017, the timing was too good to pass up. This year is the 50th anniversary of Rolling Stone‘s founding, and not only is the occasion being marked with an HBO documentary co-directed by Alex Gibney, Knopf is publishing the first major Wenner biography this fall, written by Joe Hagan. (Full disclosure: I fact-checked the book.)
Eileen Myles attends the annual Edinburgh International Book Festival at Charlotte Square Gardens on August 23, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images)
At Rolling Stone, Helena Fitzgerald profiles punk poet and 1992 write-in Presidential candidate Eileen Myles. Myles’s new memoir, Afterglow, was released this week, and their first autobiographical novel, Cool for You, was recently re-released and included an introduction by I Love Dick author Chris Kraus.
Myles (who prefers gender-neutral pronouns) has been publishing since the 70s, but has lately experienced a new wave of popularity, gathering new young fans in part because of their Twitter presence and also the character inspired by them on Transparent.
Among other things, Myles talks with Fitzgerald about the importance right now of poetry and art as forms of resistance under the current U.S. presidential administration. Interestingly, though, Myles points out that what’s been happening really isn’t all that new.
In this current moment, the feeling that we’re facing an avalanche, that we might be destroyed, is hard to ignore. When prompted to speak about art in the current political moment, Myles says: “You know, there is nothing new about what’s happening now.” Myles goes on to call Trump’s assembled henchmen “a cabinet of cockblockers: an educational secretary who’s against education, an attorney general who’s a Klansman.” But they also stress that there’s precedent throughout our history for all of these, that none of these people came out of nowhere. As much of Myles’ work — such as the seminal “An American Poem” — has grappled with in the past, this is the America in which we have always lived. The James Comey testimony took place a few days before our meeting, and Myles was passionately skeptical of the liberal praise that has been showered on the former director of the FBI. “They’re like, ‘Oh, Comey’s the good guy!’ Are you kidding me? He’s talking about a Shining City on the Hill; he’s talking about the horror, and the outrage, of people interfering with our election — like that isn’t what we do in the Middle East and in South America. I’ve never been so driven to make the argument about the nature of our history.”
The Oakland Raiders have been a thorn in the NFL’s side for decades. From pugnacious owner Al Davis to the team’s raucously rowdy fans and years of mediocrity, the Raiders reveled in being the league’s black sheep. And on the rare occasion when the team was competitive, like during the late 1970s and early ’80s when the franchise won three Super Bowls, the Silver and Black still seemed to thumb its collective nose at the league’s Brooks Brothers-outfitted executives on NYC’s Park Avenue.
Well, those execs enacted their own form of revenge: thanks to a league vote this week, the Raiders will leave the Bay Area for Las Vegas. Much like the neutering of Cleveland’s Dawg Pound (when the Cleveland Browns left for Baltimore in the late 1990s), the vote was put to the NFL owners, and only one—the Miami Dolphins—voted against the move, marking the third team in the past 14 months to relocate. While the Raiders’ new stadium won’t be ready until 2019 (at the earliest), the Raiders will have a two-year memorial for the city that loved them like no other.
It’s worth revisiting when the Raiders were weird and good. In 1973, Rolling Stone sent Hunter S. Thompson to embed with the AFC West team. Thompson was deep into gonzo journalism by this point, and as an avid football fan, he desperately wanted to chronicle a season with what was arguably the NFL’s strangest team. Trouble was, Davis didn’t entirely trust Thompson, and neither did the Raider players, who the Rolling Stone writer plied with cocaine in order for them to open up (according to Robert Draper’s history of the groundbreaking magazine, Thompson then tried to write the coke off as a business expense).
…the other was a small wiry man in a tan golf jacket with a greasy duck-tail haircut who paced along the sidelines of both fields with a speedy kind of intensity that I never really noticed until he suddenly appeared very close to me and I heard him ask a sportswriter from the San Francisco Chronicle who I was and I was doing there…
The conversation took place within 10 yards of me, and I heard most of it.
“Who’s the big guy over there with the ball in his hand?” asked the man with the DA.
“His name’s Thompson,” replied Chronicle sportswriter Jack Smith. “He’s a writer for Rolling Stone.”
“The Rolling Stones? Jesus Christ! What’s he doing here? Did you bring him?”
“No, he’s writing a big article. Rolling Stone is a magazine, Al. It’s different from the Rolling Stones; they’re a rock music group… Thompson’s a buddy of George Plimpton’s, I think… and he’s also a friend of Dave Burgin’s-you remember Burgin?”
“Holy shit! Burgin! We ran him out of here with a cattle prod!”
I saw Smith laugh at this point, then he was talking again: “Don’t worry, Al. Thompson’s okay. He wrote a good book about Las Vegas.”
Good god! I thought. That’s it… If they read that book I’m finished. By this time I’d realized that this strange-looking bugger named “Al,” who looked like a pimp or a track-tout, was in fact the infamous Al Davis-general manager and de facto owner (pending settlement of a nasty lawsuit scheduled for court-action early this year) of the whole Oakland Raider operation.
Davis glanced over his shoulder at me, then spoke back to Smith: “Get the bastard out of here. I don’t trust him.”
In December of 2015, on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of “9 to 5,” Rolling Stone ran an interview with Patricia Resnick, who wrote the original screenplay. The 1980 film, featuring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin as women who kidnap their chauvinist boss and run the business better than he ever could, was Fonda’s brainchild. It was inspired by the 9to5 organization, which advocates for women in the workplace. In the interview, Resnick addresses how little had really changed for women by 2015, and the threat of political forces looking to undo what progress there has been. Who could have predicted that would be an even bigger threat in 2017?
In some ways we’ve definitely moved forward a little bit, but there does seem to be a lot of sentiment in this country, in one of our political parties, that seems to be trying to undo what little we’ve been able to do. The other thing that makes it difficult is that so many people think that this is all been settled. We did a musical of 9 to 5 on Broadway in 2009, and it was really frustrating because a lot of the interviews that I did with male journalists, the first thing they said was, “Well, none of those issues are a problem in contemporary life, so how are women of today going to be able to relate to it?” I thought, yeah, you can’t sexually harass someone as obviously. We don’t call people “secretaries.” Other than that, what has changed? People would kill to work from 9 to 5.
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 colormurdered 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.
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.
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.
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.
Did you share the general shudder when Kellyanne Conway introduced the idea of “alternative facts”?
It’s just a framing device, an ear-catching phrase, but it’s nothing new. The content of what she’s wrapping a bow on is something that everyone has been bearing witness to. We’ve had 18 months of feelings over facts. The only thing that’s remotely new about it is the location that it’s coming from.
Is interviewing her essentially pointless?
In general, it’s very dangerous to keep the old campaign architecture around with this presidency, to have an eight-person panel on CNN debating whether or not he said something. “Did he or did he not do this thing we watched him do?” There’s actually serious harm in that discussion. And, yeah. I really don’t see the point of talking to Kellyanne Conway because her language jujitsu is so strong. You know she can look you in the eyes and tell you the opposite of what you just saw happen, and she will be more confident in her answer than you are in your question.
As if last week—and 2016 in general—weren’t already difficult enough, we lost another beloved musical great, Leonard Cohen. The Canadian-born singer-songwriter, a prolific poet and novelist as well, leaves behind a huge body of work. What will become of it all? It made no difference to Cohen. Two years ago, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Cohen said he didn’t care.
In an interview timed to coincide with the release of Mr. Cohen’s 13th studio album, an event in turn coinciding with his 80th birthday, the man says essentially that he cares not at all what becomes of his work after he dies, nor what his legacy will be. The music? The poems? The novels? The life? He could give a damn.
Ouch, a Cohen believer might predictably reply.
They who tend to be a mite sensitive to begin with. And remember also the bad old days, before the present éminence grise phase of the career. When to speak too lovingly about Leonard Cohen was a sure way to get one’s emotional stability called into question. So now might be excused for getting their backs up. Certain that a blasphemy has gone down, in an “et tu, Brute” kind of way.
At least that’s what I feel, but why? What is it about Leonard Cohen that not only commands my interest but can also set off no small burst of emotion? Something else, too: what exactly is my legitimate stake in someone else’s posterity? Even as a fan. Somewhere in my bones I hear my late grandmother putting it this way: if Leonard Cohen doesn’t care what becomes of his work and legacy after he dies — what’s that your business?