Living Semi-Stealth. Sort of.

16 03 2011

OK, so the whole posting every week thing lasted a grand 2 months. Not out of lack of things to say, just out of a lack of energy. As some of you know, I’m in the midst of doctoral research in a small community in Northern Quebec. Lately, I’ve been more and more involved in the community and have very little time to myself. And the little time I do have I (mostly unsuccessfully) try to keep as Jacky self-care time.

But I thought I would drop a line about how interesting it has been living “semi-stealth.” Back home, everyone who knows me knows that I’m trans. For the most part, it’s because they knew me before. But even knew people that I meet find out soon enough because I frequently like to joke around about “that time when I was in the girl scouts” or “when I was in labour” and so forth. Also, most new people I meet are some flavour of queer, or close enough, so that transngess and GQness is something that is pretty usual to talk about.

Living in a small community where there are few queers and where those who are queer tend to stay fairly quiet about it, it’s not something that has come up very often. People that knew me from prior visits know but, since they didn’t see me through the transition, memories of Nancy are far back enough to be somewhat irrelevant to them. An exception is a former lover who doesn’t really want to communicate too much out of discomfort because “OH MY GOD he had sex with a woman who then became a man, does that make him GAY?!?!” But I knew that this was going to happen before I transitioned, and I decided to transition anyway. I loved him, and still do, but chose self love over his love. So his reaction doesn’t really phase me. Other than that, my son, as always, calls me Mommy, which leads to some confusion, but most people have simply taken it in stride. The few people I’ve come out to, because it just came up, have taken it in stride as well. So…no big deal really.

Now, I don’t really care if people know. But since I don’t bring it up unless it comes up (like if someone actually asks me why my son calls me “Mommy” or the time someone actually mentioned a film by one of my trans idols, Lazlo Pearlman), I don’t wind up bringing it up very often. So most people in town believe that that A) I’m a guy, through and through – as opposed to a blend, which is how I actually feel and identify with people that matter – and that B) I’ve always been one. It’s a strange feeling for me, because I’m not into being stealth at all and I’m not used to people just assuming that I was once a little boy.

I am quite surprised that gossip hasn’t gotten around more…or maybe it has. Two of my students were conversing in their own language one time and I heard the term “sex change” pass between them but they didn’t look at me. So it might be that there have been rumours, but since people (students, their parents, colleagues) like me well enough, it didn’t wind up mattering.

Who knows. I still have a few months left here so all kinds of things could happen in the meantime. We’ll see.


 


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Tr@nz – January 2011 issue

22 02 2011

The latest issue of Tr@nz is out! Tr@nz is a bilingual (French and English) online magazine about local (Montreal/Quebec/Canada) and international issues affecting trans folks. Scroll down after following the link to download the PDF file for the latest issue. You can also subscribe to the magazine and get an email from Maxime every time a new issue comes out.

 





We need to keep fighting! Bill C-389

15 02 2011

I strongly urge all readers who are residents of Canada to check out this link.

It contains a sample letter and an easy “copy-pastable” list of Canadian senators who will soon be deciding the fate of Bill C-389. If you didn’t already know, this bill would ensure rights for trans people in Canada by adding gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in the Canadian charter of human rights. (More on this issue here.) You are free to write your own letter of course but if time is short and words fail you, 2 minutes of your time is all it takes to copy and paste this sample letter and list of senators into your email and click send.

Right now, the people who have the government’s ears are the extreme right-wing nuts who think that all trans people are pedophiles out to get into the showers of little girls. So if we don’t speak up “en masse,” this bill will die and who knows if trans people will have official rights in Canada any time in the next 50 years.

Thanks in advance for any little thing you can do to help!





Bill C-389 passes third reading in Canada’s House of Commons

9 02 2011

Bill C-389, a private member’s bill by NDP MP Bill Siksay, has just passed third reading in Canada’s House of Commons. The vote was 143 in favor and 135 against. This is very exciting news as the only step left for this bill is to be approved by the senate. For the people who have been working hard to get this bill passed, including Bill Siksay, Matt McLauchlin and I’m sure many others, this has been a stressful time since the current leadership is aiming for spring elections. According to my limited understanding, if the bill does not go through the whole process before the next election, it dies. Then we would have to start all over again.

If it does go through, then trans people of all flavours of trans should be protected by law in Canada. Will this fix everything? Probably not. Same sex marriage (not gay marriage, since being married to a person of the same sex would not make a bi person gay, thank you very much) has been legal in Canada for years now and yet there is still homophobia. So it would stand to reason that making discrimination against people based on gender identity and gender expression illegal would not eliminate transphobia.

And even if transphobia gradually declines over time, we have to remember that trans people of colour, First Nations trans people (some of whom might identify as Two-Spirit individuals,) trans people with disabilities, trans people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, trans people without status, trans people with an intersex experience,  trans sex workers and elderly trans people will still be targets of marginalisation and discrimination. If we truly want equal access to dignity and well-being for all trans people, we need to keep in mind that we have to work against ALL forms of oppression.

Bill C-389 is a step in the right direction for sure but it is not the end of the struggle against oppression. It is certainly worth celebrating its progress, however, and worth applauding the efforts of the people who worked hard to get this bill through. My warmest thanks goes out to them as well as a pledge to continue to work against oppression at the sides of all those who want to help shape a society that is anti-oppression.





A vow

26 01 2011

Recently, I’ve been trying to educate myself about the realities of asexual people and intersex people. I’ve been writing and speaking about “LGBT” issues for a long time, and often more specifically about the B and T that directly affect me. Years ago, I adopted LGBT as a shorthand for all non-heteronormative and non-cis identities and in doing so, I’m increasinly aware that I’ve been guilty of contributing to the erasure of a whole bunch of other people.

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What a drag: The evolution of Jack E. Dickinson, Part 2

18 01 2011

I’ve been meaning to post some thoughts on drag performance for quite some time. As described here, performing as a drag king was a major step in my transition process. Well, at least my pre-transition process. So here is Part 2 of a series of posts describing the different stages of my “drag career” and how they were linked with my transition from “woman” to “gender blended woman” to “questioning” to “trans guy” to … whatever the hell I am now. I’ll be discussing how my drag and personal lives impacted each other and how doing drag went from leading me to question the very core of my identity to a way of expressing that core.

Read Part 1 here.

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During the following months (spring/summer 2006), Dirk Van Dyk, Nat King Pole and I started meeting up with some other people who were interested in creating a new drag king scene in Montreal.  Billy King and Mitch Mitcham were two of those people and we had Miss Eva Vavoom who helped with some organisational matters in addition to taking on female roles complementing our manly drag kings. We got together to hang out and have fun but we also discussed how we could get together to make plans for a Drag King takeover of Montreal! We set up a yahoo group so that we could more easily keep in touch, share information about gig opportunities and recruit new performers.

There were more performance opportunities at different venues in town, such as the August edition of the Meow Mix at which I performed a sexy cop and biker number with my then girlfriend, and a fundraiser for a local youth help organisation at Café Cléopâtre, a famous strip/drag club in Montreal’s Red Light District. A whole bunch of us wound up performing at another fundraiser for a burlesque troupe at an obscure dive called Cabaret Chez Clo-Clo on St-Hubert where we got to meet up with other “underground” performers, which was way cool.

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Tips for teaching kids about non-heteronormative sex

9 01 2011

I’ve observed that some parents who are open-minded about sexual diversity still struggle to talk to their children about non-hetero sexuality. From what I see, the typical pattern is to teach them about “normal” sex first, because it’s assumed that this will be unproblematic to the children, and to wait until the kids are older to broach the topics of lesbian and gay sex. Bisexuality doesn’t seem to even be on the radar very often (big surprise). And, unless there is a trans person in the family, I’m fairly sure that most children don’t even hear any related terms until they’re in high school. In this post, I’m addressing sexual orientation. Discussing trans issues with children will come in another post.

While the intention of parents is probably to avoid confusing children, this “waiting” approach may do more harm then good and may lead to more confusion in the long run. By waiting until children ask specifically about same-sex sexuality, chances are the children will be exposed to damaging stereotypes and prejudice before the parents have the change to teach them anything positive. For children who may eventually come to question their own sexual orientation, this may cause them unnecessary anguish since they will have internalised, at a tender age, that their own sexual desires are “abnormal” or taboo. For children who wind up being hetero, this may contribute to their maintenance of ideas that may lead them to exclude or even bully non-normative kids.

I’m not saying this is irreversible! I’m sure that parents can still contribute to changing homophobic in kids later on. Indeed, many queer activists and allies were raised in homophobic households or households where it just wasn’t discussed. But ultimately, if more and more children are raised to see sexual diversity as the norm, fewer and fewer children will grow up thinking that non-hetero relations are weird and taboo. Fewer and fewer people will feel awkward about introducing “that gay aunt or uncle” or “that bisexual cousin.”

I’m sure there are lots of tips out there in books and on the net. I have to admit I never read them. I just went with my own gut instincts when I started talking about sex to my son. I found that making same-sex sexuality “normal” was largely a question of deconstructing what sex was to start with. I eschewed the traditional “this is how babies” are made premise, which in and of itself excludes same-sex relations as “unnatural,” and favoured a definition of sex that had to do with sharing pleasure. I explained that sex is when people touch each other in a way that gives them pleasure but that it was different than the way parents and children touch each other (so that he wouldn’t think that cuddling with mommy or daddy on a couch was having sex.) I also told him that some people like to have sex with women, some like to have sex with men and some like to have sex with both. Finally, some people have sex with only one person and some have sex with more than one. For an initial discussion, I left it at that. He was only about 6 years old so I felt that was enough information for him to digest at that time.

Later on, he started asking questions about more specific sex acts. I would answer those and give a bit more information. I always made sure to include all gender combinations. For example, when he asked me how babies got into a mother’s belly, I explained that often, a man puts his penis in her vagina and sperm comes out, which mixes with an egg she had in her belly and make a baby. But I also told him that sometimes people choose to get sperm from a place that stores it and they get it placed in their medically, or that they can mix a sperm and egg together outside the woman’s belly and then put it in so that it will grow in the belly. This is an option for women who want to have a baby without a man because they love women or because they want to raise a child themselves. I also told him that some people, like me, went from being girls to being boys, but since they still had girl parts inside their bellies, they could sometimes still have babies. So even some boys can be mommies. Like his (although I gave birth years before transition).

When he accidentally spotted a picture of a woman licking a man’s penis, he asked me why she was doing that. I explained that it’s one thing some people like to do when they’re having sex. Then he asked me if some people lick vulvas. I said yes, some people do. There are all kinds of body parts that people like to lick. Now, some might argue that this knowledge is too graffic for a 10 year old. But if it’s OK for a 10 year old to know that men put penises inside women’s vagina’s, why is it not OK to know that some people lick each others vulva’s, penises, butts, breasts or whatever?

Bottom line: I want my son to internalise the idea that sex is not automatically about making babies and that having babies does not have to involve sex. This dislodges heterosexuality is THE norm, an idea that is propagated by the hegemonic link between sex and reproduction of the species. Emphasising diversity also makes it clear that same-sex sexuality does not threaten heterosexuality and is not a hindrance to reproduction.

Of course, exposure works miracles as well. My son has grown up knowing people of all sexual orientations. He’s seen me kiss women when I was a woman, he knows that his uncle is practically married to his male partner, he’s seen men hold hands with men and women hold hands with women. So deeply is it internalised that all this is “normal” that when he saw a female friend with another woman, he asked her if that was her girlfriend.

Now, he’s already expressed that he likes girls better. And he does have an eye for women in bikinis as some friends will attest to. On the other hand, he kissed a boy on the mouth when he was in kindergarden. Regardless of his own orientation, I’m fairly sure that he will see all kinds of relationships as legitimate and worthy of respect, which is what I want. Of course, this is an ongoing project. He’s not in high school yet and I’m sure I’ll have to keep an eye out for things he picks up there. I’ll also have to keep countering media imagery that is counter to the ideals of inclusion. But I feel that he at least has a basis.

So what are YOUR tips for explaining sexual diversity to kids? What do you do to counter homophobic stuff they wind up learning at school? If you decided later on in your kids’ lives to start talking about it, what was your approach? What worked and what didn’t? What would you recommend to parents who are just starting to think and talk about sexual diversity?