I was just very pleasantly surprised by a fellow human being. This evening I was very suddenly tossed into a resources search for a local community member in need. I called the local YWCA hotline, but honestly was not expecting much. I started to describe what I was looking for and dropped the word “transgender.” The operator gave a long pause, “Can you say all that again?” I repeated my statement, a little slower this time. She paused again and, to my amazement, she was able to give me an answer, instead of another question.
I could hear the operator flipping through pages of her referral manual. She said to herself, “I’m just not findin’ what I’m looking for. Seems like there should be something for that ’cause everybody deserves help, no matter what they’re like.”
Her language was all wrong, but her warmth and willingness to help was everything that is right about humanity. I am so grateful for the moments when we, the trans* community, are reminded that we are not alone.
This weekend was a fabulously busy. It was my 2nd year at the Philly Trans Health Conference (PTHC), first time as a board member. I presented six times, volunteered, and had tons of meeting, both for fancy business and friendly love. My thoughts about the conference circle around a sense of growing community, and our past and future. This was stirred particularly by my seeing friends from early on in my coming out, people who I haven’t seen in years, reawakening memories of first finding community, that desperation to not be alone, and the joy of connecting with someone who was like me.
I ran a trans performance plenary with the amazing performers Bryn Kelly, Katastrophe, Athens Boys Choir, The Notorius OMG, Leah b. of Gender Edge, Ignacio Rivera, and AJ Bryce. As we all spoke, points of similarity kept arising; we all started out alone, isolated from anyone else like us. We never planned to be this visible, we were searching for ourselves, and ended up finding more than we ever thought. And in searching for myself, I selfishly loaded the conference with femme stuff this year. I brought the issue to the board, stressing the importance of femme inclusion, and before I knew it I was titled the Femme Program Coordinator – something PTHC has never had before. Honestly, I questioned myself like “but, wait, I’m not what most people think of when they think femme… should I be in charge” but then I realized that not only was there no one else, and it was me or nothing, that also the fact that I am not the “mainstream” vision of what femme is might be a good reason for me to take it on. Time to break the mold and get the wheels of change moving! There were so many folks like me there, it was like looking in a mirror – a much more fabulous and well dressed mirror. And when the inevitable happened, and non-trans female femmes raised their eyebrows saying “wait, you are the one in charge a femme programming….?” I brushed it off and smiled to myself, because the femme workshop they attending would not have been there if it wasn’t for me. If they didn’t think I was femme enough, then they could get out of my workshops- and there were several. Through the supportive conference leadership I was able to take PTHC from having one femme workshop (that had only been in programming for two of the ten years of the conference) to seven workshops focused on femmes presented by a diverse array of femmes of different identities, and all of them were packed! My femme boys workshop had almost 160 people in it which was intense but wonderful, and gave me ideas for new programming next year. I also did a workshop with my mentor and friend, Moonhawk River Stone about gender identity disorder removal which was a success, and we have new plans for the next year, and how we aren’t willing to wait anymore on what we’ve been nervously dragging our feet on. Our community is getting too big, too strong to sit under this oppression any longer. Ignacio Rivera and I did a fun sexual liberation workshop for the young folks in the youth programming track. It was incredible to hear 16 year olds talking about the gender binary and privilege. It made me wonder where I would be if I had known about that stuff when I was their age, and it blows my mind thinking what they may accomplish by the time they are my age. Speaking of age, I also got a ton of baby time this weekend, getting to play with S. Bear Bergman’s son, while totally blowing off other stuff that was not as important as crawling around the carpet with a 16 month old. I wonder what things will be like in the trans community when that baby grows up…
My other big task of the conference planning was I directed and performed in the new show, “Blender! Trans Performance Showcase.” This was the first time a performance showcase has been a part of the Philly Trans Health Conference and it couldn’t have gone over better. I wanted to do a show because I wanted to promote trans and queer performance, and also to stress the importance of including art in our work as activists. Our community’s art is our community’s culture, and if we don’t support it, who will? This show was great. It was honestly the most hectic, disastrous, stressful show I’ve ever organized but it was also one of the most exciting because we were forging a new space. In the end, all the hard work was worth it. All the performers were fantastically talented doing spoken word, music, dance, and drag. We bonded together, ready to create something for our people, and to show our people what we had created. The fabulous Liberty City Kings Drag and Burlesque troupe were life-savers in helping me run the stage, and the audience was happy and excited giving the night such a positive energy. It was a great way to wrap up the weekend and I’m looking forward to running the event next year!
Video from the performance, which loops in perfectly with this blog topic. I call it “GenderBent Kids” partly after the name of the song the dance is set to, “Kids” by MGMT. Its a little reflection on myself growing up, enjoying both femme and masculine cultural expressions, but continually feeling the need to choose between one or the other under the imposed narrative of social authority promoting the gender binary. Like most of my favorite pieces, it came together from a last minute idea that hit me like a hurricane like “OMG this would be awesome” and there it was. This is the first run of it so I’m looking forward to beefing up the dancing a little bit more and maybe making it a little more complex.
This conference was just a good example of where I want our community to be going. This conference is the biggest trans focused conference in the world, and it just turned 10 years old. Seems fitting we are on a good path of growth, which could not have happened without the amazing folks working on the project. We weren’t without issues this weekend, not without people being hurtful and oppressive, or without pain, but we worked through it. We were together with our elders and our youth, forging a community that was accountable, responsible, active, understanding, and loving. Hell, even Chaz Bono got an earful of community folks asking him about his behavior and holding him accountable – more on that later. Our community is growing, and we’re getting stronger. We gotta keep this up.
This past weekend, The Black Mondays drag troupe celebrated our four year anniversary! It was a fantastic show with a great crowd. Its hard to believe its been four years since I was an awkward “Jammie JAC” in my bunny slippers, boxers, and home-made kimono robe collecting tips at the troupe’s 2nd show ever. Lol, yes, that is how I got started in drag; collecting tips in my underwear and bunny slippers. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Jammie JAC” – BullFishes Bar in Cincinnati, Ohio 2006
[image: JAC with brown hair, brown eyes bowing to an audience, partly holding open a red robe with a white tank top showing underneath and brown and white bunny slippers]
Blast from the past! Drag in Cincinnati has become such a different scene from what it was back then; back when shows were selling out the bar, and the bar next door. Practicing in tiny kitchens and boiling living rooms on the west side, or in the old dive dyke bar until 8am, watching our recorded routines huddled around the the tiny screen of a bulky 1990s camcorder – where now with my Flip camera we record practices and then watch them full screen on a computer a few minutes later. (I don’t know if you can fully appreciate how amazing that is, but trust me it is – hence I randomly put it in this post.) And JAC McFaggin’, the Euro-star who wanted so badly to be a badass king now turned genderfucking crossdresser embracing his gayness – a totally unexpected development, but I couldn’t be more pleased.
The Troupe performing at BullFishes Bar, 2006
[image: group of drag king and femme performers circled on stage, boys are in black and white, femme one in white dress singing with two in black corsets and poofy colored skirts]
I am excited to see where the next years will take us in our drag exploits. In the meantime, and speaking of technology, enjoy some fabulous videos! I unexpectedly undertook choreographing “Confessions” from Glee two weeks before the show (which I wasn’t thrilled about, and otherwise would not work with Glee material). Never heard the song, didn’t know a thing about it. We did it as a boys number and I even surprised myself at the butchness of the moves, which in the end I myself still didn’t execute butchly which was expected. Notice all the fists! Masculine! RAWR! More videos to the show can be found at The Black Monday’s YouTube Channel.
I am a Hanson fan, old school. Yeah, I thought Taylor (the middle one) was a girl originally, but I though Zac (the little one) was hella cute. The summer “Mmmbop” came out I was 13, and it was quite the adventurous time. My sister and I ate, slept, and breathed Hanson. We taped every TV appearance and watched them on loop and we knew every lyric to every song they ever wrote, sang, or sat next to. We recorded our lives everyday as an ongoing video message for us to send to Hanson so they could get to know us. We saw them live in huge stadiums of screaming girls, twice, which furnished some of my favorite adventures of my childhood. In fact some of my favorite moments in my childhood were results of my sister and I bonding through Hanson fandom.
When I was 17 my best friend and I saw Hanson perform again, this time in the much smaller Taft theater in downtown Cincinnati. We rushed the stage and I totally shook Taylor’s hand. It was a crowing achievement in my life. When I was 19 I MET Hanson after they performed in the even smaller venue, Bogarts. Turns out Taylor is the only one with a good personality. He was kind and attentive to fans, friendly and warm. When I met Issac for the 1st time, a sexually empowered 17 year old virgin that I had been standing with said she wanted to make out with him. He said with a smile “Um, there is a word for girls like that and it starts with an S.” So that wasn’t cool at all, super misogynistic. Then I met Zac, my favorite, and I asked if I could kiss him on the cheek. He squinted his eyes and said, “No, sorry.” like I was asking for his virginity or something. Pissh, burn on me. And I was cute too, so WTF? I guess I should respect him as a human who doesn’t want random creeper girls kissing him, but no, I’m not gonna go that way. I’m gonna stick with it being about ME. And then the next time I met Hanson, when I was 20, Zac didn’t even come out to meet the fans so my show poster to this day is missing an autograph. (ITS ALL ABOUT ME!)
Clearly, they felt bad about theses incidents and wanted to make up for it (its five years late, but I’m willing to overlook it). Taylor turned to his brothers and said, “Hey Ike, Zac, I’m think we should make a music video with dance moves that are so gay and so awkward that NO ONE on this earth would ever doubt that they were made specifically for JAC McFaggin’.” This is what they came up with.
That’s right, this video is nothing but a gift for me (notice the cowbell? That was for me too). Their music career? The rest of the world? Irrelevant. This is all for me. But because I am nice, I will continue to allow Hanson to share the joyful ridiculousness of this video. Your Welcome.
DID YOU SEE how gay Zac’s jump was at the very end? His feet were at his ass. That’s how I jump, and I am pretty fucking gay. And clearly Issac did not get the same dance gene that Taylor and Zac have, even to where, apparently, he had to get cut out of the shot at the end. And I don’t wanna be ‘that guy’, but the Motown borrowings were just a little weird to me. I know they were raised on Motown and get a lot of inspiration from that (every good fan has Hanson’s history memorized), and that is why its there, but I donno… I will have to get more opinions on this. I feel there is something to be said for aspiring towards the music they love so much. And did you see Zac in that leather jacket? I WISH I had a chest like that, shit. That was sexy. I wasn’t down with Taylor’s shadowy facial-hair… but he has such a cute face its enough to make up for it. Plus Taylor is pretty fabulous in general, you can tell he’s totally rockin’ it the whole video. I really wish the Hansons were queer. Can you even imagine how out of control that would be?
[image: JAC with brown hair and brown eyes, looking into the camera with mouth open. Holding open a red shirt revealing a black Hanson t-shirt]
Me in 2006 – and yes I still have this shirt, and yes I still wear it, and yes I still think the Hansons are hot. And apparently they have an activist side to them focusing on HIV/AIDS in Africa. Shit, who knew? Good for you, Hanson. I wonder how they feel about queers. UPDATE: Zac interviewed by the Advocate, holy shit! Yay! Now I can like them minus guilt cause they aren’t homophobes! He does say “chooses” in reference to sexuality, but it might just be semantics.
And I want to give a shout out to my beloved sister who gave me a heads up about this video. You’re the best. I haven’t heard any new Hanson music since 2007 (reference myspace blog) so I guess I should get back into it and see what other treasures are awaiting me. Keep an eye out for this number coming to a drag show near you. Oh and Black Mondays, get ready, cause I’m gonna need some back up dancers.
Well it has been quite the weekend. The International Drag King Community Extravaganza had its 11th conference in Tucson, AZ. There were kings, there were femmes, there were genderfuckers, there were cactuses… It was a good time had by all. I will probably post some commentary stories relating through the week. I had a great presentation of “Bending Desire” with some great discussion and I was busy busy either backstage and or front for the rest of it! I would have done it when I was there but I was too busy actin’ cool… as a cactus… which is actually probably hot and prickly… which is also sexy.
Here are some pictures of myself with some dear friends, who also happen to be amazing big deals. Well you know what they say about birds of a feather… ;)
From my sister, to her school paper and student government at University of North Texas, in Denton, Texas:
“October 1, 2009 Dear Fellow Students, I was recently accepted at UNT as a doctoral candidate in the English department. During a visit to Denton last spring, I was reassured that Denton, and UNT, were “not like the rest of Texas,” or, rather, not like the stereotype of Texas that I might conjure up: repressive, backwards, and rigid.
I was not worried, as I come from a red area in an often red state myself: Cincinnati, OH. And during my time as a master’s student at the University of Cincinnati I saw, thanks in part to the tireless efforts of my brother, Jac, vast changes for the better in University policies regarding the LGTB students and their rights. My brother, who is trans, was in fact elected Homecoming King last year.” [I actually wasn’t, I just ran as an activist statement. Hardly anyone voted for me, but I like that at least in someone’s memory I won. :) ] “…the University is supposed to be a bastion of tolerance and change, dedicated to protecting all of its students from discrimination and, in doing so, serving as a model for larger society…
…It has been brought to my attention that the University of North Texas (UNT) Student Government Association (SGA) has rejected the Homecoming Equality Bylaw, which would allow people to register for consideration as Homecoming King or Queen, regardless of gender. Further, the reasons given for this denial involve sound quite suspicious: LGTB students are not a large enough population to merit “special consideration”. Donors and alumni are uncomfortable with the passage of this basic civil liberty. Fundraising might be compromised.
Pedagogically, this is a nightmare. It says: “change is not possible after all.” It says: “questioning gender? Exploring issues of heteronormativity? Only applicable within the closed sphere of the classroom.” This is not an issue that only effects LGTB students. It effects every person who has embraced critical thinking. It effects every student who hungers for self-expression and holds back, terrified, because their individuality has been deemed “unworthy” of “special consideration” by some shadow majority. If the college years are not a time for self-exploration and individuality, when will these students again have a chance to find out who they could be?
Questioning heteronormativity is a task for every person, every day. Reversing this ruling is a chance to make a change for the better, and to demonstrate that UNT will not stand for policies that compromise the rights of any of its students. This is not a special consideration. It is a basic human right.”
This just further illustrates that even “liberal” spaces don’t always follow through on their progressive promises. They make just enough “progressive” moves to make themselves feel special, still claiming privileges whenever its convenient. Institutions are no different, they do exactly the same thing, pretending to be supporting and inclusive, then cut corners (and communities) when funding, opinion, or reputation is at stake.
Another point shown here is that you don’t have to be queer or genderqueer to get it. Inclusion is not a hard concept to understand and it is up to all of us, not just the freaks and weirdos, to stand up for each other.
There are few things better than an Ohio rain. The air smells like wet ground, just like those nineteen-nineties nights on family camping trips. I remember walking the dark wet paths, toothbrush in one hand, flashlight in the other. No matter where I was… what state, what country, the forest always had the same look about it, the same smell. I can still see my sister’s shadow on the gravel road ahead of me and hear the scuffling of my flip-flops as I hurry after her. In all our childhood, I never remember her being afraid of the dark.
My send off show with the Black Mondays.The show was themed as a GenderFuck in my honor, because the troupe members are amazing and I love them. The show was packed and a ton of fun.
Me and Big Gay MotherFuckin’ Al
My parents and sister
Backstage with Special K and La Femme Demanda before genderfucked “Rama Llama.” I made the skirts :)
My first performance in full femme drag. I got this dress at a thrift in highschool. My best friend had a matching one and we used to wear them to school.
Impromptu “Thriller” performance after the show. I think I make a better MJ in the skirt.
Once a Black Monday, always a Black Monday. I am sure I will have more performances with folks from the troupe. It’ll be hard not being in Cincinnati, not going to practices and seeing my 2nd family every week after 3 years of being in together… I’ll make it through, we all will. The troupe itself needs a break, all of us need a break I think. But not matter what we do, were we go, we’ll always be connected.
The University of Cincinnati has officially included Gender Identity and Expression in it’s Non-Discrimination Policy. Now anyone who’s transgender, genderqueer, gender-variant, or queer is now protected from discrimination and hate crimes!
I started working on this project two years ago. Two years of working and finally we are all safe on campus. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the first printed draft. There in the middle of the paragraph read: Gender Identity and Expression.
I think I’m still in shock. After two years of working, I can’t believe this has actually happened. With this new policy we will be able to enact a residence hall policy, a gender neutral bathroom policy, locker rooms, IDs and registration and so much more. The preferred name format for university registration is going to come through in the next year and the residence hall work is already underway.
I’m so glad that I was able to be here when this happened and see the project to it’s completion.
Myself with fellow activists Jane and Kim after we got the news.