The Fucked-Over Femme

This past weekend was Femme 2010, the biannual Femme Conference put on by the fantastic Femme Collective. The Femme “community” is like any other where it is in actuality many similar communities grouped together under one umbrella. I am always excited for Femme Con and this year I was optimistic about making more femme friends and also meeting more femme guys, which were few and far between last time (2008 in Chicago). But the longer the conference went on the longer I was alone.

Early in the conference I met a transguy, a femme ally, who confided in me about a woman purposely making negative comments about “masculine energy” taking up space in the conference, insinuating that non-female people were not welcome. I wasn’t surprised, but I assured him that was not the opinion of the general populace of the conference. I have always admired the Femme Collective’s hard work to expand the femme umbrella’s reach, but what do we do when oppression is coming from under the umbrella in addition to outside of it?

Invisibility. Many queer femme women feel invisible because the world doesn’t understand/believe that feminine women can also be queer nor do people often recognize the subversive political action that goes with being a femme woman. Femme transwomen who, among many things, are often refused access to women spaces and have severe issues of safety. Whether it is misogyny in its most traditional ‘women are demons’ sense or in more complex spheres where somehow cute shoes equal complying with the patriarchy – femme women have a lot of shit to deal with. That said I would like to point out that not all femmes are women, and femme women are not the only ones who have to deal with shit.

“Come In Ladies!” The signs were all over the conference, but what about us femmes who aren’t ladies? Can’t we come in or are boys not allowed? I heard whispers: “Men shouldn’t be here” “What’s with all the butch looking people?” and “This is a femme only space” essentially telling me not only am I not a femme, I am also unwelcome. I was really perturbed by the 1970s-esque pro-vagina sentiment that was overtaking everything. Yes, pro-vagina is awesome but vagina does not always equal woman, and woman does not always equal femme. What about those who don’t have a vagina (or a specific a type of vagina), or have one but don’t identify with it? As the weekend progressed I found myself getting nervous. I was worried people didn’t want me there or wouldn’t be interested in my workshop or in my performance (which was in an all women line-up). I felt alone, desperate for people to talk to. I went to a workshop for guy and genderqueer femmes but the whole thing was over run with female femmes processing their loves and issues (some very problematic) about transguy femmes; which I found particularly ironic because it was the only workshop dedicated to non-female femmes but it was dominated by females – but “male energy” is what’s stealing all the conference space. There were multiple testimonies of how femme transguys presented competition for community, status, and even sex partners. This dialogue made me too angry to constructively comment. It was a typical bubble-world testimony of coastal queers thinking the entire world is their liberal city, where apparently transqueers are running wild en masse. I’ve never found it easy to find my own folks, in fact out here in the Midwest the closest feminine (not femme, just feminine) transguy is a nine hour drive away and I only met him last year. Yeah, us femme guys are a real invasion.  Claim your radical status and sex partners now before its too late!

Not only am I invisible but I’m getting fucked over by my own communities. Folks like me, we’re the Fucked-Over Femmes. We have to deal with similar oppressions to female femmes but we aren’t allowed to bond and unite over it because we are male or masculine. How much male privilege you think is allowed someone like me? Not a fuckin lot, if I’m even read as male at all. Femininity is considered equal to woman, and not being a woman I am frequently denied the identity of femme, even by those who know me well. Instead I am habitually told how ‘gay’ I am, which I don’t mind because I am queer, but the use of gay here is incorrect and it says something about unconscious gendering. Someone may lovingly say “JAC, you’re so gay'” because I’m wearing a poofy skirt but they don’t say it when I’m restoring a bike. I’m the same person but I’m not expressing the same “gayness” AKA male femininity. Pushing against masculinity is hard; coping with scrutiny from other guys for not being ‘man enough,’ even pitied for getting delt the femme hand in life. I am continually asked why I transitioned at all if I was just going to be like a girl. I do not deserve to pass as well or get the right pronoun because I don’t exude the hypermasculinity that would make me worthy of it and if I am at all bothered by this it is my own fault for not being a “normal guy.”

I love my femme communities and I will continually work hard for them. And I know for a fact that the general community of Femme Con is awesome and strives for inclusiveness, but – and you know there is always a ‘but’ on this blog – different types of femmes have many different oppressions to battle and no one is harder than another. In general we are all up against the same shit: You get cat-called, I get called fag. You’re afraid, I’m afraid. Our big similarities outweigh the tiny differences. I may be a Fucked-Over Femme, but not any more or less than any other femme. You may feel invisible, but no more or less than I am. What is more frustrating that seeing your community when it refuses to see you? We all feel invisible, we are all getting fucked over, we all need to fight together. We all are undervalued and stereotyped because, as Kate Bornstein so eloquently said in her keynote, “sexy is evil and cute is dumb.” How are we supposed to rise above the oppressions put on us when we are still counting people out, or counting people as less-than? (sound familiar?) Kate talked about how no femme is truly invisible, but femmes are still being fucked over, sometimes by each other. We need to stop the legitimacy wars and start doing what we do best, fighting for justice and looking fabulous while we do it.

Transiversary: Excerpts from the Past 4 Years

Today, February 17, 2010, marks the 4 year Transiversary for o’l Midwest GenderQueer. It has been a long road, and will be longer still. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all who have been there, wanted to be there, and come and gone. Just as I am here, you have been here with me. I love you and I am eternally grateful. I would not have made it without you.

And now, a story that looks longer than it actually is…

On January 27th, 2006 I walked out of class, went straight into the computer lab and started a livejournal.  I described what had happened in class:

“[My teacher] got off topic and started talking about gender queer. I’d looked it all up before but I had never heard people in real life talk about it….I was close to tears…”

That psychology teacher, a Dyke who was later fired for her “radical” methodology, changed my life. For the first time my life was described by someone else. For the first time, I felt that maybe I was not the only one. But I felt like the only one. I wasn’t alone but no one really understood what I was going through. My friends we supportive but confused, even a little worried.

“I’ve lived my hole life thinking no one was like me. I just don’t fit anywhere… Fuck it all, i’m finally gonna be something that I feel like i should be.  Finally.”

February 17th was not officially the first date I started to ‘come out’ or recognize my genderqueerness, it was the first day that I had full and total recognition of who I was without denial, excuse, or exception. I recognized that I was not crazy, I was not multiple people, that I was not normal, and that I didn’t have to be. I recognized the desire to be a “girly boy” and not have to live within a certain binary concept, regardless of what body or identity I had. These recognitions were in no way matured or actualized, they were the seeds of thought that eventually grew into my own sense of being. February 17th, 2006 marks the day I took the first step on solid footing in a long, continuing journey to self autonomy and personal actualization. And even with that day being a great day, it was a dark day. I was exhausted, I was angry, I was afraid.

“Can’t i be who I am, shouldn’t I be who I am? I hate myself for some reason. I hate myself.”

The first appearance of the word “transgender” came in March, along with a slew of other new vocab words I had adopted. I had made a decision to take my life into my own hands for better or worse. I wrote:

“I am taking the steps I need to make it… I am myself and I will try to be as true to that as I can.” Continue reading “Transiversary: Excerpts from the Past 4 Years”

What we used to be….

Lots of folks are talking about David Letterman’s transphobic behavior on the Late Show in regards to recent government appointee Amanda Simpson. Letterman discusses Simpson’s appointment and how she is transgender. Another character in the show begins screaming “Amanda used to be a man? Oh my god!” and runs out of the room disgusted and horrified.

Also recently Scott Turner Schofield appeared on a reality TV show called “Conveyor Belt of Love.” (In Scott’s defense, he said never thought it would air.)

When word got out that he was trans, the uproar started about how Scott “was really a girl” and therefore a proponent of “trickery.”

I was not surprised, or shocked by any of it. I think I am so adjusted to seeing this behavior that I was barely even offended. What stuck out to me was the common phrase “used to be.”  I feel like we use it all the time to talk about our people, to talk about ourselves… “I used to be a girl, but now…”  But now what? How does one stop being something they have been?

I would like to add a disclaimer that this method of thinking can’t be applied to most trans people. In fact, most trans people I talk to about it don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. But it makes sense to me. I am not a “girl” but I used to be one… no I am not a girl, but I still kinda am one.  If I say “I used to be a girl…” I always stumble over my words, correcting myself with awkward throw ins.  In someways I was never a girl, in others I totally was… and am. Why does it matter what I used to be? Shouldn’t all that matters be what I am now? If you slept with someone who was woman but at one point was male bodied, does that change the face that you slept with a woman? If I was a girl once, am I really a girl now? Does that make me not really a boy? Where does our history stop and the recognition and realness begin? Does there have to be a stop and start in the first place? I can’t escape my history and my life, nor do I feel a need to. I can never completely stop being the me I used to be because somewhere in my brain are my memories of myself, my concept of myself from years past. Who I used to be is a part of who I am now.

It is the societal hate of changing ourselves that makes us feel that we have to exchange who we used to be for who we are now. They try to train us to reprogram our minds and bodies and re-write our histories. It is out of fear of disgusting others, of being hated, of being killed, that we feel the need to hide who we used to be and as a result we hide ourselves.

To sign a petition to promote the Late Show posting an apology, go here.

The Inevitable “She”

A voice answered. I dropped my voice to its lower octave and spoke. I overheard the man speaking to his supervisor. “She says….”

She. It used to crush me.  As a newly out transguy nothing could wreck my day like the wrong pronoun. I had to accept that I wasn’t going to pass. Once I did “she” moved from a crushing reality to a minor inconvenience. After I started T “he” began to make more of an appearance, but that’s all it ever made. An appearance. Eventually I stopped caring. My friends tell me that I “don’t look anything like a girl.” I may not look exactly like a girl, but I look (and sound) enough like one to be read as one. It isn’t about self-deprecation. It’s about reality. To some I am read as male, but to most I’m not. The reason has to be I look and sound within the general concept of what a female would or could be.

Originally my theory for this was based on familiarity with visible queerness. People who where more accustomed to non-normative or otherwise queer gender presentation in women would more likely think I was a woman too, and even stress using “she” to show they recognize me. Consequently, people who had little to no exposure to queerness would always read me as male simply because they didn’t know any better. Makes sense, right? But it isn’t accurate. A queer/queer savvy person has just as much chance to use “she” as a rural Ohio store clerk. Regardless of population or location, I am significantly unreadable and under-recognized.

Sometimes I get pissed about it, especially if I’m in a space where I think people should know better. One random “she” here and there isn’t much to get upset about, but I have a hard time standing the brunt of three to six to twelve “shes” flying in my face like bugs on a windshield. It’s as if I can actually feel myself getting cut down, every pronoun pulling me farther and farther away from any hope of correction or recognition. My friends are often quick to correct people, but I rarely do anymore. I wonder if they think I’m a coward for not standing up for myself. I wonder if they feel sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for myself; it usually doesn’t bother me… that much. The explanation is often more painful than the mistake because it often leads to more questions or, at the very least, an unfavorable look.

Sometimes I don’t know what’s wrong with people. I think I look like a guy. I think they must be crazy, or maybe I’m the one who’s crazy; crazy for even wanting to pass, for caring what other people think. Maybe I’m crazy to think that I should be able to have the pronoun I want no matter what I look like. Maybe I’m crazy to continue to look like I do in this world. Once when I was upset about not passing a friend (also trans) said “if you want to pass there are things you can do…” but I don’t want to do them. I already did them and I grew out of it, it isn’t me anymore. I don’t want to pretend I’m someone or something I’m not, and that includes going by “she.”

Its not that I’m ashamed of being female bodied, or otherwise hate it. I just don’t like it infringing on my identity. What sucks is that it’s not up to me whether it does or doesn’t. Its other people’s perceptions that continually push my birth sex in my face. I’m not opposed to being placed inside the feminine spectrum either. I self-identify as a femme, but that doesn’t mean I’m a girl. I’m a guy, and as femme as I am, it doesn’t change my gender identity. Sometimes I think of upping my T dose but I never do. I don’t want to give up the androgyny and I think my body is having a hard enough time with the strain from T as it is. I guess this is just how it’s gonna be, and since I got over the preliminary experiences of not passing, there’s no cause for me not to get over this… It’s just that I thought I was near the end, you know? I was never under the illusion that T would make life easy; I didn’t take it for that. I just thought it would make life easier… at least, easier than this.

After I was passing a little, I started to genderfuck more to suit my personality. I had been building up the confidence to do it. T was my final push across the binary line. Once I died my hair and started to “femme up” the way I wanted there was no going back to butch. Butch was gone and I guess that any chance of “he” setting roots went with it.  Like I said, I’d rather be this way than not, it’s who I am. I’ll just hang out with the other genderqueers until the binary breaks down enough for us to have a space. In the mean time, I do enjoy fucking with people who have no idea what gender I am. I think of it as a little form of payback. If I’m not gonna get my pronoun yet, I might as well get to freak people out while I wait.

The Future of Trans in Genetics?

Recently scientists have found that a specific gene can be altered to make a female body begin functioning as a male, and another to make a male function as female. Now, I am not a molecular geneticist, but my parents are, so I feel entirely capable of talking about this situation by summarizing what other people wrote. ;)

If you remember your 6th grade science class, it has been commonly thought that physical sex is determined by X-chromosomes and Y-chromosomes (XX, XY, XXX, XYY etc). The research for this new study, published in the journal Cell, challenges that concept. The genes known as FOXL2 (active females) and SOX9 (active in males) are found on a non-sex chromosome that is in both the male and female sex. The new discovery states that genes are all that stand between changing the female sex (XX) into the male sex (XY), and ovaries into (non-sperm producing) testes. Long story short, FOXL2 and SOX9 are the light switches between the male and female sex.

When active FOXL9 bonds with estrogen and “blocks” high levels of testosterone from being produced. When working with mice, scientists found a way to artificially “switch off” FOXL2, un-blocking the testosterone (along with other elements) making an otherwise female sexed body function as male. The body begins to produce testosterone at the levels of a healthy male and eventually turns the ovaries to testes. FOXL2 and SOX9 both exist in males and females, but if FOXL2 is on, SOX9 is on. (Apparently Dr. Seuss is a geneticist.) For the female sex to become male, turn FOXL2 off which will turn SOX9 on. The research also suggests, or is interpreted, to show that FOXL2 is continually fighting to keep ovaries as ovaries, resulting in several articles titled “Battle of the Sexes,” along with some cute ones like “Minnie to Micky…” and the poorly written mess in “Gene Stops Ovaries from TESTIfying”

What does this mean for humans, you may ask? The researchers are hoping for this information to be useful in understanding and treating medical conditions such as premature menopause in women and, less in my favor, disorders of sexual development AKA intersex conditions which can lead to more problematic, non-consensual “fixing.”

Another possibility especially relevant for us trans folks is that this can help us in physical transition. If scientists can “switch off” this gene in humans, it would trigger the growth of secondary sex characteristics, like facial hair or breasts, and and chromosomally transform human ovaries into testes and testes to ovaries.The body would begin to naturally produce testosterone or estrogen, which means bye-bye needles and pills. Hormonal transition would be entirely internalized. In addition, the research found no adverse health effects and a normal lifespan, something we can’t say for current hormone therapy. Sterility would still be an unhappy result, but the overall process would be significantly less invasive, healthier,  and possibly cheaper in long term.

Sounds great, right? Honestly, I think it does, as long as we keep things in check. There are many ways the institution can flip this around and make it totally inaccessible to all of us… but lets try to be optimistic for a minute. I’d like to have some hope for a minute.

xposted: TransGroup blog, QueerToday, GenderBlogs

Ohio License Doesn’t Require Surgery, Just Insanity

It’s official. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ no longer requires a letter stating a person has had gender-confirmation surgery, an amazing victory. Now people are able to correct their licenses gender marker enabling them safer, more accurate identification. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.

This past week I was sent the unofficial, pre-press printout of the new BMV form. I was thrilled, like a kid on Christmas. My head was swimming with the possibilities, not just for myself, but for so many others. I opened the PDF and started to read.

“To be qualified, the medical professional must attest that the transition is being conducted in accordance with World Professional Association for Transgendered Health (WPATH) Standards of Care. This change is only to be made as part of a permanent, full time gender transition.”

My heart sank. I could see the image of that laminated M disappear. I can’t get my marker changed because I don’t follow the standards of care.

Every six months I drive five and a half hours to Chicago to get my trans-health care because I refuse to be diagnosed with gender identity disorder. My identity is not mentally disordered. I refuse to be labeled as such simply because queer gender does not conform to what is considered normal. If you had the right doctor, you could maybe swing something, but good luck finding a doctor who’s willing to break out of the box. Remember, this is Ohio. Could I get a letter? Maybe I could, but in order to do that I have to bow to a system of standards that oppress me, that oppress my people. I don’t look like a woman, I don’t sound like one, and I don’t belong to the F marked on my license but that isn’t enough to get it changed. I have to be legally diagnosed as mentally disordered- I have to be certifiably “transsexual” and apparently I’m trans enough to count. I understand that GID is on the books, and as long as it is I shouldn’t expect our community to get anything but the bare minimum, and as a genderqueer I shouldn’t expect to get anything.

Diligent, amazing activists worked hard to make this change as comprehensive and accessible as possible, but as long as we are inside a system that supports the pathologization of gender non-conformity our community is still controlled and oppressed. We are all trapped in this system, and if we ever want these first steps take us anywhere, the system itself must be changed. My dear friend wrote about change happening from the ‘bottom up.’ To me, it isn’t just about grassroots activism; it is a statement that this is the bare-minimum. We started with nothing, now we have a something, but we have a long way to go. Other movements have left us out but we cannot leave each other. Any gender transgressor is in our community and deserves to fight and to be fought for. No genderqueer left behind.

x-posted Amplify Your Voice
x-posted Trans Group Blog

University of Cincinnati Mega Fail for Queers

I recently received an advertisement email from my Alma Mater, the University of Cincinnati, for the LGBTQ Meet and Greet. I was disturbed, but not surprised at the number of errors. Community titles were misspelled, several were un-named, and university groups names were out-dated and inaccurate. Another group hasn’t been around for almost two years.

When I was a UC student I resurrected a movement to install a university funded full time staff person for the queer community and adding queer center or queer inclusive multicultural center (their choice) to campus life. Petitions were signed with over 1,000 student, faculty, and staff signatures in support, meetings and rallies were held… This was four years ago… The fight still goes on today.

Last year an appeasement piece was offered, a space documented as a temporary space for queer students until a permanent one could be established. It is literally a closet, not big enough for more than 11 people -standing room only with no furniture that is. The “LGBTQ Center” is run by the Women’s Center, which currently holds its toe over all queer recognition and legitimacy for the University. (Can someone say problematic?) The ‘center’ holds irregular hours and is closed more than it is open. The space offers no private space for consultation with a staff person – an untrained graduate student who works out of the Women’s Center and is primarily ‘staffed’ by student volunteers who have minimal if any training in any crisis support or resource education. Additionally, and equally as important, the space has never been recognized as a safe space for queers of color or international queer students. Such a space does not exist anywhere on campus.

The Univeristy of Cincinnati and the UC Women’s Center have epically failed at supporting queer students in every sense. They cannot provide comprehensive queer education, a private community space, or a reliable, accessible resource person for students. The University of Cincinnati has no excuse for its behavior towards queer students. It is time for the school to step into the modern world and support its students as equal, valued members of the campus. I never got my queer center. How many other students must creep through their college careers never feeling included, never feeling respected, and never feeling safe?

Bloggers Note: It is worth mentioning that queer students are not the only students lacking support and space, esp. international students, many students of color, student parents, and non-traditional students.


Coming Out for Your Entertainment?

The newest trans-media craze has hit. A semi-celebrity, who I am not naming, has come out as trans and announced his transition. Clearly the announcement was made to circumvent a mass-media fest. In his announcement he also specifically requested privacy. Of course he’s not getting it. Who’s surprised?

I realize the media sensationalizes the most minimal things for entertainment. That said, I have found particular attention is paid to queer and trans concerns. The media either crucifies the person or tries to highlight how amazingly normal the person is (in effort to be supportive to the poor, gay soul). Who would ever think a queer person could be well-adjusted? Holy heterosexist, Batman!

In the case of this person coming out, some news articles have been surprisingly well written and mostly focused on actual trans issues. However, the majority are full of the expected trans-ignorant language like using the wrong pronoun and terms like “gender switching/swapping,” “Girl Boy,” “she/ he,” “it,” and my favorite-“wow.”

A person’s coming out story should not be a opportunity for public commentary and fascination, as if the person were growing a new limb. Being trans doesn’t make you magic. Believe me I wish it did, but it doesn’t. Yes, it is hard to come out and it is hard to transition. Yes, we are a greatly ignored population and there is little education about us. That doesn’t give anyone the right to turn us into a spectacle.

There is public habit of making representatives out of people just because they are different. There is no consent in this iconization, only the assumption that if you are different you must want to be talked about. So often marginalized populations are labeled, boxed, and then expected to present their experience for the sake of “educating” others. What people want isn’t education, its entertainment. When someone finds out I’m trans they don’t want to discuss gender theory with me. They want to know what my body looks like, how I have sex, and if I’ve had “the surgery.” They want to hear about how depressing my life is so they can feel like a supporter when they tell me how brave I am.

The reality is that I’m no braver than anyone else. I think that we all are brave for surviving in this fucked up world, queer or not. People need to look past the labels and see the person behind it. Sensationalizing those who are different is a form of societal oppression.


Gender-Variant Shot – We’re All Clueless

Last week, two female presenting people, possibly transwomen or crossdressers, where attacked and robbed in Cincinnati. One was shot when the thief tried to take her purse. How did no one hear about this? (Myself included and I’m on the look out). Needless to say, it wasn’t headline news. But then again, maybe its better it wasn’t because the media did such a terrible job of covering the story. Wrong pronouns everywhere. “…Attacker shot one of the victims, who was dressed as a woman, while trying to steal HIS purse.”

If it is clear someone is presenting in one gender, why are people determined to get the pronoun wrong? People are determined to stick to their brain’s sex binary. To add insult to injury, the civic response to this is thing short of a sick-minded comedy hour.

“…if the shooter gets caught, he’ll probably only be charged with a “missed da weiner.””
“…don’t they know it’s a man under that skirt! Probably a big one too!”
“You don’t think that Shanequa and Shantay were out trying to make some extra money.” –Transphobic, racist and classist. Charming.
“What a drag!” – Ok this one is shitty, I know, but I have to appreciate the accurate queer-vocabulary.

There was another attack that same week in a Cincinnati suburb where a gay man was beaten on account of his sexual orientation. In response to this a huge protest has been organized by big name queer organizations. I’m not trying to hate on anyone, or show a lack of support for the survivor or those working to fight hate. All I’m saying is where’s the rally to protect the genderqueers? I realize people can’t rally around something they don’t know happened. Maybe we just need to open our scope a little wider, be on the look out a little more. Mainstream media isn’t going to do it for us. Its up to us to make sure everyone is protected and supported.

cross-posted at

Penis Enlargement Emails Say A Mouthful

You ever go to clean out your spam folder and find an email you just can’t not open?

“Literally become a monster snake in my pants.” How do you not open that email? If I see an email saying “Make your zipper knight the best in town.” I’m gonna want to open it so it can tell me it has the perfect “improvement for my night intruder.”

The entertainment possibilities are endless when it comes to analyzing gendered language, especially when it is sexualized. The penis is often described as a “monster,” an “intruder,” or an “obstructionist” -highly aggressive terminology to remind men how virile and tough they are. “GRRRR I personify my genitalia! I AM SEXY! ROAR!” Then these dominant terms are paired with words like “knight” and “hero” that speak to the psychological triggers for a stereotypical boy-hood. The most fucked up part of this is that people actually subscribe to this way of thinking, truly believing that this system will make them “feel with women like Michael Jordan with ball and hoop.”

One thing is for sure, if you’re going to write bad porn slogans you need to commit to doing the work. Don’t make a computer do it. Computers don’t know what’s sexy. Computer sexuality is weird, and I’m about as open-minded about sex as they come. (ha ha! pun!) Computers can try to write like people, but in the end they revert back to what a computer would think is sexy. You can see the battle of human vs. computer sex appeal in this example: (I preserved the format. Maybe its like a computer pin-up or something.)

Subject:“For carnal victories! Effervescence profluent intertwist enchantment.” (It’s like a teenage girl mixed with an alka seltzer commercial. Maybe the computer read too much of BOP magazine.)

Text: “To bang her without a rest, you just need a little support. – impassiblenesss pneumatoscopic. Plunge into the ocean of love with our new male power pro-longer. Our pills can make you a superman of bed-action fast and easy.

cheerly pondorosity de-obstruct affector metaplasm graveled cuneiform





metaplasm vertebration vomitory grum wharfage”

That is what a computer thinks is sexy, just in case you ever need to know.