Transgender History by Susan Stryker

I read this book as part of a LGBT studies class at Sierra College for my degree in Social Justice. It’s a great read and eponymously covers the history of an important marginalized group in America; transgender people.

As always, I am happy to share the audiobook with any friends who want a copy.

This book is an excellent introduction to many of the concepts and terms related to the history of transgender issues in America. There is a big focus on intersectionality and the related history of the women’s movements and the LGBT movement.

One thing I especially liked is the way she compares gender and sexual orientation to language. Humans are definitely wired to have language, but we are not wired with a particular language. Likewise, we are wired for sex, orientation, and gender, but not for a specific sex, orientation, or gender.

“Str8 4 trans ONLY” [Draft]

Sublimation Is The New Reaction-Formation For Homophobia

Freud argued that all neurotic or psychologically atypical behavior is caused by dissonance. He defined dissonance as when the person one is, is different from the person one feels one should be. He argued that this causes what he called repression; the dissonance is pushed into the unconscious mind, where it is expressed through several defense mechanisms.

One famous example is homophobia; the fear of being homosexual. People who are homophobic are afraid that they are homosexual, and this fear is pushed into the unconscious mind where it manifests through what Freud called reaction formation. The person acts like the opposite of what they fear they really are. In the case of homophobia, the person typically behaves in a hypermasculine way. They try to prove to themselves and others that they are not homosexual through hypermasculinity which often includes misogyny and hypervigilant fear and hate of people with atypical sexuality and gender identity.

There is a very interesting thing happening in our culture today. It’s not new, but it’s more visible than ever and seems to be growing.

Freud argued for another defense mechanism called displacement or sublimation. This is when a person acts on their subconscious fear by using a substitute object and an elaborate excuse or metaphor to explain their behavior in order to make it more acceptable to themselves and to others. This allows them to behave according to their subconscious desires while still officially identifying as the opposite.

In recent years, there has been a huge surge in personal ads, gay dating apps, and in gay culture at large of people who identify as straight and are looking only for transgender people. Scrolling through Grindr at present, I can see dozens of nearby examples. I believe this is a clear example of displacement/sublimation. These people do not outwardly identify as homosexual, but want to act on those subconscious urges. Joining a gay sex app and then adding an all-caps headline to their profile that they are looking for trans people only allows them to dip a toe into their true selves while still identifying as the opposite.

Being a straight guy means being attracted to women. So if a straight guy approaches a trans man, then they are calling that person a woman. This is a very abusive behavior, deliberately misgendering the trans person. If the straight guy approaches a trans woman, this alone is not inherently abusive.

This is probably a very cathartic experience for people who are homophobic, but it is an expression of mental unhealth. It is an expression and extension of a deep problem which is not being addressed and is likely to escalate until actually dealt with.

There is also a long history of “gay panic” where a homophobic person is doing something like this and suddenly has a crisis of identity and decides to injure or murder the other person involved to prove they are not homosexual. This effect can be exacerbated by Post-coital Tristesse where some people feel intense sadness and guilt after sex, leading to unusually intense reactions against their partners. Venus Xtravaganza is a famous example. She was a transgender sex worker who described numerous instances of this happening to her in the documentary Paris is Burning, and she was eventually murdered by a John.

There is also the fact that self-identified straight men have the highest undiagnosed HIV and STI rates of any group, and the poorest attention to sexual health.

There are many examples of ways this phenomena can negatively impact transgender people as well as homophobic people, but it is also possible to imagine scenarios where both groups are empowered and enabled to find that palliative catharsis in the experience.

I interviewed an expert in human trafficking and sexual violence who said that most self-identified males define good sex as sex that ends in them having an orgasm and vice versa for bad sex. This expert also said that most self-identified females define good sex as sex that doesn’t hurt or doesn’t involve physical violence, and vice versa for bad; with neither party making any mention of the female-identified party achieving the orgasm which is assumed for the male-identified party.

There is a clear line between healthy sexual encounters and abusive encounters, and there are many behaviors and actions which are good indicators of future violence and abuse. Power and control dynamics and any physical violence are both excellent indicators of future abuse and violence.

In the words of atheist Elizabeth Gilbert, “[Saint Anthony] said, in his solitude, he sometimes encountered devils who looked like angels, and other times he found angels who looked like devils. When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company.”

BQT: Notes From Conversation with J.T.

J.T. is a leading member of a prominent LGBT organization. I asked specifically about managing perceptions around “colonization” and “appropriation” when working on issues related to attendance diversity in large LGBT organizations.

His advice was simple. Give the power to the people. Recruit leaders in underrepresented communities and empower them to create new events the way they want to.

He said just like early American racial integration, the issue must at first be forced on to the unwilling majority audiences in the city, and that they will learn to accept it. Empower the underrepresented to be their own leaders, and no one can accuse you of appropriating or colonizing those groups.

Sacramento Pride 2018

I was very proud this year to march with Sacramento’s Bolt Bar, a gay alternative bar which is a big participant in the leather and fetish communities in the Northern California area. The Bolt also hosts an annual Mr Leather competition whose winner goes on to International Mr Leather.

I carried the Trans pride flag. This is an important and underserved group in the gay community. I am proud to do my part to support them as an ally..

 

The truck that followed behind us as we marched towed a trailer containing a puppy mosh pit! Photo credit to my friend Professor Scott Kirchner. It was very funny to see many dogs in the crowd reacting to the puppy mosh pit as though they were real dogs. I am still looking for photos or videos of those hilarious reactions. :]

BQT: Notes From Conversation with J.C.

J.C. suggested a large emphasis on information technology and demographics research in order to drive targeted advertising through existing channels within the communities. Specifically Grindr, Scruff, and the already large Facebook presence of the organization. He has had great success with similar events in the past using demographics-targeted Facebook posts in the past.

He also suggested polling people at the door at each event to see what ZIP code they are coming from and whether they are white or non-white. This would allow much better information about where people are already already coming from. Maybe some large percentage of the existing customers are coming from a particular area, and throwing a party there would be an automatic success, “Maybe a hundred people come from Oakland to every party and you just don’t know it yet.”

J.C. also made the same argument K.A. did; that events need to be held in the communities, rather than just in San Francisco. This will establish trust with these communities which will make people feel more comfortable coming to the larger events in San Francisco.

J.C also noted helpfully that all the recent party themes have been white-culture related holidays. He suggested that we could do parties themed on holidays from other cultures which still fit with the overall aesthetic theme of the organization. For example; Dia De Los Muertos or Sun Ra themes. These could also introduce different musical cultures into the events and organization while making people from these cultures feel more comfortable at the events.

J.C. is a prominent member of the leather community, and suggested collaboration with leaders there. They are already a historically diverse and sex-positive group which is established not only in San Francisco, but throughout the bay-area communities with more diverse demographics as well as across the world in cities which have already addressed these issues.

BQT: Notes From Conversation with K.A.

There are many safe queer spaces in San Francisco which are representative of the demographics of San Francisco. These spaces are largely dominated by caucasian cis-males for several reasons.

These spaces in San Francisco, though relatively representative of the demographics of San Francisco, are not representative of the demographics of the broader bay area because most non-white groups are centered outside of the peninsula.

The biggest challenge for people from other parts of the bay to attend queer events in San Francisco is transportation and lodging, as transit stops running relatively early in the night.

According to K.A., who attended meeting Facebook held in San Francisco about inclusivity issues related to the “real name” policy, several members of the east and south-bay minority communities voiced outrage that the event was held in San Francisco and not in the minority communities. K.A. quoted one member as saying this is how the communities know Facebook is not serious about fixing these problems. Similar comments were made by a member of these communities at a similar meeting which I was present for at another organization.

Assume the goal is to create more inclusive queer party spaces in the larger bay area and in San Francisco.

One excellent strategy outlined by K.A. would be to hold smaller parties in these minority communities and cross-promote for the larger parties in San Francisco once these communities learn to trust the organization and its intentions. These parties should be thrown in conjunction with established and trusted organizations which are already leading in each of these communities.

K.A. also reiterated earlier recommendations I had made that at these and other events in the minority communities, evangelism should take place such that local leaders are empowered to hand out discounted tickets to trusted local leaders so that they can participate and spread the word about the event and its intentions.

K.A. also recommended we reach out to Michelle Meow, president of San Francisco Pride, radio personality, and POC activist who is very hands-on engaged with issues like this.

 

I set up several meetings with SF Pride board members and other community leaders related to these points.

The First Run: 140 Care Packages For People Who Are Homeless

We liked the idea of having something other than cash to hand out to people who are homeless in order to be more helpful with less money. We also wanted to start conversations around the project which helped to humanize people who are homeless. This comes in the face of intense prejudice in our communities and stigmatization of people who are homeless as though they are the source of our problems rather than a symptom of our community abandoning its most vulnerable members.

So we decided to make care packages. This is what we came up with…

Care Packages For People Who Are Homeless

In this first run, each care package contains;

  • A Bottle of Water
  • A Granola Bar
  • A Ramen Packet
  • Tissues
  • Toilet Paper
  • A Feminine Hygiene Product
  • A Bag of Dog Food For Man’s Best Friend
  • A Tooth Brush
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Apple Sauce
  • A Bar of Soap (Special Thanks to Stand Up Placer and Jenny Davidson for donating these!)