The year was 1999; The end of an era where pioneering Queer filmmakers told our stories without apologizing for it.
That’s one part of the latter 90’s I remember vividly. It was the first time that I can remember films finding their way into mainstream consciousnesses that focused on the lives and amplified the visibility of LGBT characters, putting them front and center. It was an era of burgeoning new voices and quality content that reflected our experiences with an authenticity you’re hard-pressed to find even today. In the decades that followed, there was a significant lull in prominent feature films that resisted stereotypical rhetoric or sensationalized caricatures of queer people for either comedic or shock value. LGBT Hollywood seemed to suffer a squelching, replaced mostly by straight filmmakers trying to re-manifest the magic of the 90’s by aiming for an Oscar instead of speaking to an audience using the medium of film.
I was in my late teens when the wave of high profile indie queer films rose to the awareness of every LGBT kid living in small town America. We had Todd Stephen’s “Edge of Seventeen,” Greg Berlanti’s “The Broken Hearts Club,” Lisa Cholodenko’s beautiful lesbian drama, “High Art,” the celluloid masterpiece from the UK, “Beautiful Thing,” the festival sensation “But, I’m a Cheerleader,” and the brilliant noir drama from the Wachowski Sisters, “Bound” starring the incomparable Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon. We also had Guinevere Turner’s “Go Fish” and Tony Vitale’s “Kiss Me, Guido.”
These films were my window into the world beyond the boundaries of your typical heterosexual suburbia where I was watching people just like me. They weren’t angst ridden characters composed solely of obligatory self hatred or stories that ultimately resulted in their untimely tragic deaths- a territory so many films, like “Philadelphia”, had exhausted. These people were happy; that simple fact made a tremendous difference in my own life during those vulnerable, formative years. We could find love, success, develop healthy friendships and relationships, explore our identities without it being ultimately catastrophic.
“Trick,” a comedy written by Jason Shafer and directed by Jim Fall (Who also directed “The Lizzy McGuire”) hit theaters and consequentially broke new ground. Starring the impossibly charming Christian Campbell (Gabriel) and the delectable JP Pitoc (Mark) the film centralizes itself on two young New York City men who simply want to engage in a casual hook up but encounter every obstacle imaginable. The result of the pursuit of a quick sexual encounter gone awry leads them to develop a far more intimate relationship and mutual respect, learning more about each other than they intended to at the onset. It was a sweet, unassuming love story, pre-grindr or scruff or tinder, that resonated.
Beyond that, it was an absolutely hilarious, campy film that introduced us to unforgettable characters and perpetually meme-able moments before memes existed. The film co-starred Tori Spelling (Of “Beverly Hills 90210” fame.) and exploited her natural- dare I say genius comedic abilities that made her performance stand out as more than just the daffy best friend- but the best friend we all wanted. That, coupled with unforgettable cameos by drag legend CoCo Peru, the hilarious Steve Hayes, the formidable writing and incredible direction of Jim Fall- who, by the way, most recently directed the hit comedy play Damaged Furniture– “Trick” earned its place as one of the most memorable films in the history of queer cinema.
20 years later, it’s returning with most of the original cast in tact to give us the next chapter in the lives of the characters we came to know and love. The landscape has changed a lot since the late 90’s and dating itself has shifted considerably with the development of social media and right swiping at the speed of light. It will be fascinating to see how the creators behind such a relevant film representative of a time not so long ago have evolved their protagonists and adapted them to the future as we know it, but few could foresee.
Trick 2 is also the only film from that pink era of cinema to revisit a story framed in an entirely new period, similarly to the Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy trilogy of Richard Linklatter directed films “Before Sunrise,” (1995) “Before Sunset” (2004) and “Before Midnight” (2013).
“Trick 2″ is set to debut in 2019, and like many, I’m eagerly awaiting its arrival.
You ever just get a wild hair to do something you’ve never done before? That happened to me when I looked at the front of my house and determined that, from the roadside, it appeared naked. Thus, on a whim I decided to take it upon myself to do something I had never done before- and would never do again…
Wield a hammer.
I’ve never been, what some might call “handy,” I readily admit. When considering the concepts of things that just don’t fit, it overwhelmingly applies to me and manual labor.
I hate to sound like a cliche. I know plenty of trans women who can juggle chainsaws and carve a fully functional Cadillac from the trunk of a dead oak tree. That’s never been me. Things that require careful planning and patience are not my friend… this is why I rebuke liquid eyeliner and think anyone who pretends the use of such arsenal is easy to use should be brought up on charges. I watched half a dozen tutorials on how to give my eyes little upturned wings at the corners with liquid eyeliner and ended up looking like I’d barely survived a bar brawl.
Precise, I am not. But, I am bi-polar, and I fully blame some manic fit on the absolutely illogical decision between the commercials during Days Of Our Lives to build a deck on the front of my house.
I didn’t need a deck. I don’t find decks very impressive. I knew if I had a deck that I’d never even use it. It would just sit there, more of a decoration than anything else but utterly pointless to have. I am not an outdoorsy person at all, to put it quite plainly. Decks, I’ve always imagined, are for people who like to eat grilled meat and don’t mind swatting away aggressive bugs from their face.
To this day, two years on from the musings I’m about to share, I’ve never once sat upon my own deck… and because I’m not the friendly sort who does things like host soirees or invites people to my home, not a single soul has ever sat on my deck, although I imagine at times the view must be lovely from there.
It hasn’t been altogether useless. The Rooster someone flung from their car window that has now lived with me for two years perches himself upon my deck each morning and crows at dawn. It’s just below my bedroom window. It’s a terrible habit he has and I wish he’d find another place to settle himself for his routine wake-up calls. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrust open my window and screamed at the top of my lungs “GET OFF MY DECK!” hoping to thwart his nasty habit. He’s also shit all over it.
It’s a disaster now, at just a few years old. Its lost its once vibrant pastel colors and is peeling in places. My once beautiful deck which I confess I was very proud of, is discolored in spots and evidently stricken with mildew, despite my wood having been treated accordingly.
I had big plans in the beginning, things that I might do… fanciful things as a proud deck owner, like dangle Christmas lights from it so those who drive by might slow down and discreetly appreciate my embellishments, but I never did.
It’s clear to me now, as it was then, that decks are for a specific sort of people. I am not one of those people.
I think a family of raccoons now reside beneath my deck, despite my efforts to place lattice around the perimeter to avoid pest infestation. It’s also home to a few thousand ob weaver spiders who feast upon the mosquitoes that swarm around the porch light each summer season.
If you’re anything like me, ignore the fanciful whims of home improvement and take up knitting instead.
Travis Scott Enlists NYC Nightlife Royalty for His Album Cover but Photoshops out Trans Icon Amanda LePore
They’ll say it isn’t transphobia… It’s Transphobia.
Rapper Travis Scott, more famously known the father of Kyie Jenner’s baby, decided to celebrate- or appropriate- the fabulous, wild and hyper-creative figures of the New York City Nightlife scene for the cover of his upcoming album, Astroworld.
The New York City Nightlife denizens are a beautiful breed unto their own, often responsible for setting trends in every arena from fashion to music, years before the rest of the of us catch up. It is veritable Oz, without a comparative, of enigmatic, fabulous creatives and creatures spanning generations who make magic across Manhattan from dust until dawn.
One of the most powerful attributes of this community is its complete and absolute acceptance of everyone, no matter shape, size, color, gender, sexual orientation, economic status or age. There is a very good reason that the American dream for so many has been realized in New York City. Who can forget Madonna’s story about arriving in Times Square from her Michigan suburb with 7 dollars in her pocket?
The Nightlife of New York City has more than just icons among their own, but these larger than life personalities tendril out into American consciousness, becoming bonafide celebrities in their own right- Rupaul, Susanne Bartsch, Patricia Field, Joey Arias, Klaus Nomi- artists, actors, drag queens, dancers, circus performers, fashion designers- all these imagineers who have changed the landscape of social acceptance by their sheer existence and refusal to conform- they continue the pioneering of LGBT+ rights, equality and inclusivity. Of course, New York City was the birthplace of Pride.
The NYC nightlife community is routinely celebrated for its brilliance, featured prominently in documentaries, shows like Saturday Night Live, and famous pop singers have incorporated them into their concert acts, and many of the nightlife staples appear on the red carpet at the annual Life Ball in Vienna to support those around the world living with HIV/AIDS.
It’s not unusual for celebrities to adopt performances, extraordinary fashions, or even use the members of the community as subjects for their work. In 1972, Lou Reed, for example, sang about one of Andy Warhol’s muses, Holly Woodlawn in his hit song “Walk on the Wildside.”
To put it more bluntly; The New York City Nightlife, and those who populate it, have regularly been a fountain of inspiration for the rest of the world.
When the visionary photographer, a NYC staple himself, David LaChapelle shot the cover of Travis Scott’s album, it seemed perfectly natural that he would use some some of Nightlife’s most iconic figures to capture the essence of Scott’s vision of “Astroworld.” It looks like a circus, with Scott himself appearing as a symbolic entrance to an exotic freak show. LaChapelle, as usual, turns his camera into a powerful tool of wizardry, invoking images of otherworldly people who are far to magnificent to exist in our own, everyday mundane lives. He has, in the past, referred to Amanda LePore as his own muse, and photographed her dozens of times for international magazines, turning her into a household name. LePore is, what can only be described as a National Treasure. One of the first trans women to take the spotlight on the center stage of America without apologizing for it. To many, she is royalty in the New York City scene. Of course LaChapelle would include her, as LePore, even alone, embodies the ethos what makes New York City after dark its own wonderland.
Of course, upon seeing the official image, she wondered aloud where she had gone.
LePore simply asked a question. She didn’t kick up a fuss or condemn her unusual exclusion from the final image. In fact, she displayed nothing but support for her long time photographer/collaborator and friend, LaChapelle, despite her erasure.
Others, however, could not negotiate any justifiable explanation for her removal from the image. LePore was not the central focus of the photograph, she was in the background, thus not distracting in any way. Her pose was not inappropriate or controversial by any means, if one compares it to the woman portrayed in a glass tank baring an exposed breast. In fact, LePore is the only participant in the original image to be removed before its release.
Many cited that the only reason one would remove the only known transgender figure from the photo was transphobia. Even past and present Rupaul’s Drag Race winners Aquaria and Violet Chachki, along with others who frequent the NYC nightlife circuit and often collaborate with Lepore, like musician Cazwell, chimed in;
In a shocking turn of events, while other pondered the reason for the seemingly senseless alteration of the cover, LaChapelle defended the removal of LePore from the official release.
Regardless of her disappointment, LePore, responded with an enviable class, diplomacy and positivity.
It’s no secret that the rap industry is notoriously transphobic, but it seems highly unusual to appropriate a broad, diverse community that has its own roots in rebuking such exclusionary practices, whether in social activities, politics…
Never before has a Network done more to accurately represent the lives of Transgender people. In the rare events where we have seen trans men and women in media, they’re always the same caricature of transness; Aching, pitiful, self-hating oddities whose entire existence centralizes solely on their gender status alone; Not the individual living the experience. In the few instances where we are provided a role in television or film, we’re either prostitutes catering to fetishists, locked in the throes of torment over our gender identity and we usually die.
Pose breaks that stigma by offering up a bevvy of characters whose transgender status is an undeniable aspect of their lives, but not the sum of their characters. It’s never the catalyst for their action or inaction, and not the singular driving force of the story. They don’t pretext every conversation and story arc with sensationalized angst over being just being transgender.
Wow, is that ever refreshing.
It’s a fact that over 47% of Americans do not know a trans person. If they do, they don’t know it. While we had a golden opportunity to let the world be the passenger on the journey of a Trans woman who witnessed her evolution, it was botched beyond redemption. Caitlyn Jenner had gone from a sidebar figure in a reality show to a full on, corset laden diva on the cover of Vanity Fair. She did high profile interviews and I was thrilled at the concept that middle America would witness this incredible, human journey and experience empathy, compassion, and maybe minds would change as a result. No one ever expected it to be the polarizing disaster that it became. Thankfully, POSE has succeeded in undoing some of that irreconcilable damage.
Credit must be given to Ryan Murphy, the series creator, who clearly proceeded with caution when designing a series from the perspective of women of color, from a specific culture who happened to be transgender. He didn’t package it with the intention of disarming viewers, nor did he cis-wash a tale that needed to be told by trans women of color. In his approach to crafting POSE, he enlisted the help of Janet Mock, herself a trans woman of color and notable media staple, by inviting her into the writers room. Her stamp of authenticity is not only pivotal to the success of POSE, but her inclusion in the series, behind the scenes, gave it a gravitas unlike any we’ve seen on network television. The result was introducing America to compelling characters who existed during a fascinating time in history and allowed them access to their humanity, rather than hyper focusing on their gender alone. We were given people, not cardboard cutouts of what Hollywood wants the world to believe transgender people are- 2 dimensional figures who exist in exceedingly limited space.
POSE has demonstrated that we don’t all walk through life as a gag, a punchline, a token or a tragedy waiting to happen. We are part of greater society, and most importantly, there is a place for us had we ever been allowed to occupy it on screen. What is paramount here, however, is that POSE has broken the toxic industry trend of enlisting cis only actors to play transgender roles. They employed trans actors and actresses to bring the story to life rather than just have a sidebar trans consultant as so many other features have done. You read that right. Films like “Dallas Buyers Club” hired a transgender coach to teach cis actor Jared Leto to portray a trans character on film.
I can only hope that POSE will stand as a testament to the formidable, although often overlooked, talents of gender diverse actors and actresses, writers and directors while continuing to allow us access to quality projects suited to those talents instead of viewing our gender identity as an inhibitor.
I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention that POSE is the first step on a long, long road in desensitizing middle America to our gender while simply encouraging them to accept us as the characters we embody for their entertainment.
For a few years I have watched young Trans+ folks flock to the feet of the three media figures the media readily gives us access too; Laverne Cox, Janet Mock and Carmen Carrera to ask questions regarding disclosure and intimacy. Sure, we have other figures in pop culture like Caitlyn Jenner, but she’s built a Trump-Like wall around herself, both via her own counter-productive political actions and- more likely- to avoid further embarrassing herself. After we witnessed the debacle that was her reality series, no young Trans identifying people were going to Caitlyn for answers.
I remember watching Carrera do a facebook live video sitting on the floor with her friend as they casually spoke to viewers and someone asked; “When do I tell my boyfriend I’m Trans.” And her response left me absolutely astounded. “You don’t” She said. “It’s not his business.” Maybe she was being flip. Maybe she was being sarcastic. Who knows. When I called her on it, she both unfriended me and deleted the video.
Here’s the reality; Everyone is going to tell you something different. They’ll tell you how they do it, how their friends do it, or how they think you should do it having never lived your experience of having to do it at all. Lucky them.
I’m just going to share a little advice with one thing in mind: Your safety.
Your safety is paramount. You come first. Your dignity is not negotiable.
When I’m asked that question, and although I don’t have the profile of the illustrious aforementioned media figures, I say this; “Tell them immediately.”
If you’re just flirting harmlessly in a dive bar, there’s no harm in keeping your personal body design just that; personal. If they give you their number, take it. If someone you’re with expresses anything beyond benign flirtation or asks you on a date? Tell them. “Thanks for asking, It’s not going to be a problem that I’m trans, is it? Just double checking.” It’s an innocuous question. It isn’t springing something on them over dinner- sadly I know of trans people who have been on dates and casually disclosed over the main course only to find their partner for the evening excuse themselves to the restroom never to return.
In my personal opinion, it should never get to the point where a trans individual has a boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t know their status. By that time, there’s deep emotional involvement, and if rejected, a greater sense of betrayal and much more severe reaction.
Your status is not embarrassing. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Disclosing it to a potential partner gives them fair and equal opportunity to either proceed with their pursuit or comfortably withdraw without feeling deceived.
Too many women have had their lives taken in a brutal manner because they literally chose to disclose at the bedside of their intended lover. We’ve seen the men who have murdered these women given leniency by Judges with a bias who sympathize with them as they claim “Trans Panic.” They argue that they were in “Shock” and flew into a “Blind rage” which resulted in the death of their partner- sometimes ever after a sexual act.
Never allow anyone to create a narrative that you actively attempted to mislead or entrap them. Not disclosing to a potential sexual partner removes their agency and typically creates a great deal of heartache and anxiety for the trans individual who simply wants to have a normal courtship without the excess baggage. We envy those who never have to worry about telling someone they like that our body parts alone may be their deal breaker. It’s completely normal to dread telling someone, as we are all too familiar with the ignorance that many subscribe to upon learning of our Trans body; “I’m sorry, I’m not gay.”
I can’t tell you how many times a man has attempted to make advances toward me and I’ve stopped him and said “Listen, before you go any further, I’m a Transgirl, and if that’s an issue you need to stop now.” I say it with a disarming smile; Not an attack, not an abrasive form of scolding, but politely and with the intent of either continuing the conversation or moving on with my evening. Sometimes, the response has been “Oh! You don’t look like a man, I’m so stupid!” or “Ah, I didn’t realize. I’m not gay, but you’re really pretty. Cheers!” And off he goes on the hunt for someone more his ilk.
I call it “Weeding.” I never let any sort of discussion wherein I recognize someone’s interest grow in my garden just because it feels nice to receive compliments or gives me some form of validation. Reality check: I can’t afford the consequences of letting weeds grow where there’s room instead for bountiful relationships with people to whom my body design is irrelevant.
I have, in the past, heard many trans folks fall head-over-heels in love with someone who doesn’t know their trans status. They live with the constant gnawing from their insides- a palpable fear of losing that person when that inevitable moment arrives where they have no choice but to tell them. They avoid it. They dodge it. They put it off for as long as possible. By the time the moment comes, they’re crying as if they are confessing something unholy about themselves; Something so vile and grotesque that their tears are riddled, not with anxiety anymore, but with shame. Their partner either embraces them with consolation or, more typically, leaves the situation feeling duped.
Dating as a trans individual is not easy. Many trans people who use dating apps make it clear on their profiles that they are trans, a vested effort to leave no room for those awkward moments of disclosure. It would be great if more people actually read profiles rather than simply judged a random selfie for a half second before swiping right only to leave the trans man or woman find out days or even weeks later that their online suitor never procured that information from the “About Me” portion of their profile. Some people even use Trans-Centric screen names to avoid accidental connections. Often, even that goes unnoticed. Not always, but often enough to make even dating apps a difficult terrain to navigate for those who are gender diverse.
A friend of mine actually got to know several men during one of these voyages across the landscape of dating apps. Her screen name was one that immediately indicated she was, in fact, a trans woman. Men would agree to set up meetings with her at a local diner or a corner pub…
… and then they’d never show up.
It didn’t happen once- not even twice, but three times in as many months. Most men still are uninformed, despite their attraction, with regards to trans women specifically. It’s just the social constructs we’ve built around defined masculinity and the implications of sexual attraction. Indeed, there are men who find trans women attractive. For some of those men, when that becomes clear, they respond with anger and sometimes violence. It’s as if we have threatened their coveted status as a ‘Man.’ As their Father’s son. As a dude who loves Nascar and women in thong bikinis. They feel reduced.
That’s not our fault, but it is our problem. It becomes our problem when a man approaches a trans woman and initiates an intimacy. Our responsibility to ourselves- and to them- is to immediately give them the choice to stay or to go. Upon disclosure, the ball is in their court and we never have to suffer the harsh realities of our family hearing: “I was so shocked, you Honor.”
This is you taking immediate control of your identity, with the pride we rightfully deserve and allowing those in our orbit to self-eliminate. No awkward confessions on the third date, no teary eyed apologies for not being up front, no complex emotions to untangle.
Protect yourself. There’s only one of you, and you are not replaceable.
I don’t normally respond to opposing arguments, nor delete them, because a dialogue is necessary and everyone who has different experience should have them validated- mine are no more authentic or personal than yours.
In this instance, however, I’d like to clarify- we all have things we don’t like about ourselves, but there is a distinct difference between an insecurity, an gender dysphoria. I am not diminishing, not minimizing people with insecurities over their body shape, size or build- in fact- i pay great respect to that in the article you’ve commented on. Speaking for myself, solely, I can attest to the fact that my dysphoria, my mind in full disagreement with my body, and my desperation to be recognized and acknowledged for how I preferred to be seen versus how I believed the word saw me did grave damage to my self worth. Much of my ability to experience genuine happiness hinged on whether or not I was able to move through society without being heckled, stared at, laughed at or worse, violently attacked. Women with abundant hair on their arms may not like it, but they’re not living in fear of being killed due to it being a gender indicator.
This piece is to reaffirm, uplift and validate the transgender community who have suffered in the same ways that I and many other have as a result of our appearance not falling between the goal posts of specific masculinity or femininity. It was not meant to reduce the plight of cis people who feel inadequate by comparison to their fellow cis peers. They do not, however, suffer the same, long term emotional damage that a trans person living in the wrong body does. I understand you don’t agree with that assessment, and that’s perfectly okay.
If there is a rock bottom, we have yet to find it. Why? We’re still falling.
Transgender and gender diverse Americans have never had a safe passage in greater society. We had one of two choices: We could chose to push forward on the only path available to us, riddle with weeds, thorns and mountainous obstacles in order to simply thrive in spite of the condition… or, we could be consumed by overwhelming emotions of self defeat, conditioned self-hatred and slip into a sense of despair few ever fully recover from. It is that hopelessness that has cost many people on the trans spectrum their lives.
While it was never easy- not only because of external hostility toward us and an arrogant unwillingness for society, not only to adapt to, but reject our existence, we saw a period of time where it got a little better.
We saw movement and momentum. We saw progress. We saw more trans+ identifying people stepping out of the shadows unapologetically and with a brazen confidence. We saw progress and inclusion in legislation that acknowledged our presence in a world once reserved solely for binary men and women. We saw that someone with power and influence where it actually mattered introduce executive orders that protected us from the acts of violence we’d been subject to for far too long. Did it stop it from happening? No, but we were provided a voice- an allegiance with a growing number of supporters who saw us, not as deviants or sinners, but human beings with a right to thrive.
We had taken a step forward. There were suddenly our and proud trans kids being elected prom king or queen. There were trans people being introduced to the narrow minds of middle America by means of educational documentaries and we were allow- even encouraged- to tell our stories. Communities developed, organizations committed to the task of enhancing our visibility. The younger generation demonstrated an eagerness to learn and listen as they found themselves exposed to more transgender people than any generation had before, and they were largely embraced.
And the 2016 hit us like a wrecking ball. Suddenly, as if the entire world had turned upside down overnight, we were seeing our new government shun us. Attempts were made to ban transgender military service men and and women simply for being trans identified. They were called “Distractions” by our President. That was followed by the redaction of all executive orders by the previous government that were intended to protect us from being victimized by those who held tightly to bigoted world views that excluded us. We are now more vulnerable than ever.
Then came the introduction of the new Health and Human Services Religious Freedom and Conscience Division that allows emergency responders and medical caregivers the right to refuse us medical treatment without consequence and on the basis of religious or moral objection. We’ve always been on the end of the sword of religious zealots and hyper conservatives, but now their hatred and targeted ostracizing has been state sanctioned.
The rate of Transgender homicides, specifically women of color, has since spiked, and many states allow a “Trans Panic” defense that allows a man who murders a transgender woman to pay minimal consequences or none at all.
The New Order of Trumpism that favors only white, wealthy, straight cisgender men has had more than just disastrous impacts on our economy, our diplomatic relationships with allied nations, our environment agencies, education departments, the free press, freedom from religious persecution, immigration policies and the concept of truth, but for the transgender community, it has become psychological warfare.
People are afraid. Justifiably.
Every day it’s something new. An introduction of a law that postures Transgender women as Men posing as women to infiltrate bathrooms with the intention of assaulting little girl and raping the wives of godly men. We’re painted as sick and twisted monsters by preachers standing beside our own president at the Value Voters Summit as he applauds with approval.
As the clock ticks backward in time, the iron hands chip away at our sense of belonging. As we watch all of our work being systematically undone with the only plausible intention being to harm us, or expose us to harm, summons up a sense of dread and inevitable foreboding, never knowing what is coming next. We feel ourselves trembling under a sinister administration who has made certain to let us know that we, as a people, are on his radar and will return to the status of “Other.” We will be viewed once more through the evangelical gaze that has, for centuries, damaged our emotional and physical well being.
It’s harder to accept this, because we know that is not the way it should be. We believed others, at least those we believed allied with us, felt the same. Then they made this man leader of our Nation, and the usher of our fate. Many of us lost friends, family members, and even saw colleagues who once exhibited casual civility become outright traitors, now spewing rhetoric and hive-mind systems of thought as they staunchly supported the man responsible for our undoing.
How do we process this? It feels like more than a betrayal. It feel like we were lulled into a sense of security and subsequently led to the Trumpian Alter for slaughter. There is a famous saying that comes to mind; “Trying to understand crazy will drive one crazy.” There is no reason, no rational. We are innocent bystanders guilty of no wrongdoing but being unjustly persecuted and reduced to subhuman.
The mind that operates with any modicum of logic cannot navigate this, much less understand it. As a result, so many trans people have been experiencing increased rates of social anxiety, depression, even an exacerbated fear of presenting in public as their preferred gender. I would be reticent if I neglected to mention the transgender people who had, at some point in the last decade, developed the confidence to walk in their truth, have turned around and walked back into the closet out of a need to self preserve. We’re in fight or flight mode, many of us. Some of us are fleeing, and I understand why.
Pushing back against a radical movement who simply despises you without any provocation seems like screaming into a vacuum. They’re not listening. They don’t have to. Even as a result of my posts here, combative posts about me have been written that begin with “Tranny Phaylen Fairchild,” and refer to me as “He/She/It.” But, that’s the consequence of putting my words out there in this chaotic era where there is no accountability and hatred toward people like me is not just endorsed, but enthusiastically put on display. I’m old enough to have a thick skin, but I would be negligent to presume that everyone does.
I could care less about what someone says regarding me, or their opinion of me. That’s none of my business. I care about my ability to exist, safely, in a broader society that is changing shape at an alarming rate. That shape is ugly. We all see it. Bigots had gotten to the point where they may have maintained their heinous views, but they had for the most part learned to be more discreet. There were repercussions, after all. Not anymore. Now they are out in numbers, having parades, campaigning against transgender people and shouting propaganda to extoll fear and ignorance. It happened at a Pride Parade in London where a group of Anti-Trans lesbians literally led the parade. Although uninvited, they were not stopped. Control was handed to them. Had they been anti-gay protesters, would that have happened? Had they been from the Westboro Baptist Church, famous for protesting the funerals of LGBT people, would they have been allowed to lead a march intended to celebrate pride in ourselves as a diverse spectrum of people? The very thing they hate?
Sure, it feels like we’ve spiraled into a mad, mad world. A frightening, Orwellian universe. It seems like we’ve been pushed to the very fringes that those before us wrestled to escape, many to their own detriment, so that we might come as far as we have, despite having further to go. Now, we have to somehow wrap our heads around the fact that the ground seems to be giving way beneath us as we find ourselves in the cross hairs of Trumpism.
How do we maintain our personal feelings of value, self worth, or very dignity as it’s all being argued against everywhere from Mega Churches to Fox News all the way to the Senate floor. Few will know how it feels to watch politicians run- and win- on promises to eviscerate your basic human rights.
It takes its toll on the psyche. It wears down the spirit. It fosters a sense of powerlessness that leave one prone and emotionally broke. It reeks havoc on our hard earned stability which we covet. It’s often painful to read the news; To scroll through social media and watch as Republicans and trolls alike spin up their own fairy tales and mythologies that portray us as villains over and over again with staggering frequency- they never sleep. We’re exposed to this, and it’s time we call it what it is.
Repeated behaviors intended solely to thrust us into a dystopian existence where we must fight daily against an ever strengthening tide of oppressive ideologues and their relentless, albeit frivolous accusations and mischaracterisations to support their tyrannical agenda that has never had any basis in fact.
Facts, in 2018, do not matter anymore. It’s all fake news. And the design of the double-speak, back tracking then claiming everyone else is a liar is an architecture of confusion that lends itself to well to Trump Supporters, whose cult-like mentality despite reality is terrifyingly real. That is our reality.
The silver lining is this. He won’t be president forever, and hopefully, by the the time this moment hits the history books, it will be viewed as a vile, disturbing mockery of democracy that victimized innocent Americans like me, like you.
We need to say it out loud: This is hard. This is unnerving. This is difficult to process and we feel subject to destructive behaviors exhibited by our own government. We have a responsibility to each other to let it out rather than internalize our fear. Tomorrow’s children, many who will be just like us, need to know our stories to prevent Trumpism from every creeping up and taking power ever again.
We are not powerless, despite how some of us may feel. We may be at the mercy of a diabolical regime, but we are quickly crafting our vision for the future…
… and that’s where your power lays. This era is not our future. It is formative. It is tomorrows lesson and we will be the teachers.
I’m A Trans Person. My Cousin Is a Trump Supporter. Let Me Tell You Why I Declined Their Wedding Invitation
I know a lot of people will read the headline of this missive and roll their eyes so hard that they’ll see the backs of their heads. It’s okay. I probably would have done the same thing two years ago.
I used to find it preposterous that people would allow petty differences of opinion to influence their desire to share momentous occasions with family members. We’re here for one go-round on this journey called life, and certainly we have some duty to lift each other up when it comes to achieving happiness and harmony in the small windows of chaos and heartbreak that life, itself, is composed of.
Sure, people have different world views. We have different cultures, different traditions, different belief systems and we are a spectrum so wide that boundaries are impossible to see. We are the universe, ever expanding, and those differences make us beautiful. That we are all of us, at once, sharing space and time here on this pale blue dot for such a short period, I see us as, if you will, a crew on the great rock hurdling through space. We’re here together, and time will inevitably claim us- claim you, me… and the next crew will be your children and grandchildren, people we will never meet. To them, we’ll be history. We’ll be markers in a graveyard. Mary, Queen of Scots, and Queen Elizabeth, they shared an era, but to us, they are history. We read about them in books. There are millions of others we never knew were here, but like you and I, they existed, struggled through social tyranny. Slavery, the holocaust, the Native American genocide, it all happened in leaflets of a bound text, thus we can acknowledge, but we can never truly appreciate the horrific experiences. The losses. The trembling fear. The nightmarish reality of families struggling through plague or famine. We are so far departed from the reality of those who shared life as they knew it that we cannot look at it without influence from life, today, as we know it. And we are comfortable. History is a dark, ugly monster relegated to black and white print.
I often wonder if any of them imagined a day where someone like me could be sitting here writing words like this. If there would be a reality show about a young transgender girl, Jazz Jennings, as she shares her story with the world as her passenger. I wonder if they could have even conceived of something like Pride marches. They never had that opportunity. Women lived and died who could never vote. Black folks lived and died who were never free. Gay and Trans individuals died believing they were rejects… mistakes.
I think of these words by Martin Luther King often because it represents so much. As he rose up to become an inspirational leader which leaders do not do in our era, he was faced with an onslaught of death threats for telling people of color that they had a place. They had a value of life and deserved a quality of peace and equality unhindered by those who ignorantly believed the color of their skin measured the quality of their character. To them, in his final speech before his assassination, he said this;
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live — a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
“I may not get there with you.” I can’t help but be overwhelmed by emotion as I consider how this man was such an instrument of change for so many people, and for the future he would not live to see. While he wouldn’t witness the powerful results of his existence, I am consoled by that fact that because of him, the world was made better. He did not fight in vain. He was a world- shaper. The words he spoke in the chapter of history in which he existed, did not end when he did. They echoed. Even still.
Many people walk through life with an arrogance of belief that the world only began turning on the instance they took their first breath. LGBT Pride is a day to have a parade, get drunk and party. Martin Luther King day is just a day off work or school. People are untethered from reality only because it was not theirs. They did not suffer the consequences of- not a different world- but a different leadership that enabled the oppression, hatred, incarceration, mutilation, torment and murder of people just like them.
And now we’re rolling back the hands of the clock at a pace so frightening that these people who never thought that history could repeat itself, that the privileges, no matter how minute or progress so slow, could somehow find themselves living in the past, in the future. All this, not because our efforts of shouting “Love Is Love” and the #BlackLiveMatter and #MeToo and our Marches in the streets, but in retaliation to it. In spite of it. For eight years, in my lifetime, I witnessed a beloved back President, the first ever. The next eight years I fear I will witness an unbridled revenge for having had that.
And to my ultimate point of why I turned declined an invitation to a family members wedding- My cousin, a cherub faced red head with bright blue eyes and pale freckled skin and her soon-to-be husband, who only once addressed me on social media as “Bro.” Avid Trump supporters who voted, without conscience or concern for any other individual sharing this journey and the unfolding results we’re witnessing in headlines every single day;
You have betrayed me.
You have betrayed every person not sharing this chapter of time, those who suffered the trials and tragedies and died during regimes like the one you support today. You betrayed every gay person, every trans person, every woman, every person of color, every single human being who never got to thrive due to ignorance, bigotry and state sanctioned political abuse and subsequent erasure.
Now, so am I. The voices who you’ve never heard, who lived through times much worse than this, but we’re spiraling dangerously close to, I am speaking out for. No one had to die for you to get married. No one had to die for your freedom as a white person. No government ever banned you for being straight, or cisgender. No Judge ever extolled a harsher sentence on you for how you presented or imprisoned you for your religion. But millions of us, both here, and long departed- that was our every day lives.
The state of my life today, my ability to thrive in a hostile climate growing more volatile with each passing hour is a result of your choice. But, my life is not yours, thus irrelevant to you, or your future. The very same can be said for the millions who, in 2016, voted to force people like me to have to posture themselves to fight for the right to thrive against a raging tide of hate that you didn’t just empower, but collectively paved a passage for. You unified yourself with a vile, archaic, narcissistic world view that has claimed so many victims that I cannot see you as anything but complicit. I’ll say it again… the consequences of your choices are not victimless. I am proof of that.
So, maybe it is petty to some who will write me off as a left-wing radical weeping liberal tears. That is, after all, the go-to argument for those who are writing this chapter of what will be tomorrow’s history in an effort to dismiss them; To thumb their nose at them for being “Too sensitive,” or “A Snowflake.” We’ve heard it all before. We heard it when women wanted to vote- they were “Too emotional.” We heard it when Black folks wanted to attend white schools and received access to a higher education, they were “Too insubordinate.” When gay people wanted to get marred and they took to the streets in great numbers to protest inequality, they were “Too entitled.”
For me, this isn’t taking a low road. Sure, I could go and watch you trade the nuptials others in our country didn’t even have until 3 years ago. I could smile warmly knowing that when all is said and done, I’ll leave just to go back to the frontlines of a domestic war that you have created for me and people like me.
The truth is this; I’m not declining your invitation in protest. I wish you the best- in fact, a lifetime of happiness and the continued, unobscured freedoms and privileges you’ve always been granted. I want that for you.
But, I want that for me too. I want that for all people like me. I’d be a hypocrite to protest your right to enjoy your life and unify with a life partner to share it with, because we all deserve that. All of us. Clearly, you don’t share that sentiment. You’ve demonstrated that.
So, while I don’t protest your rights, dear cousin, my time, unfortunately, must be spent fighting for mine, not in protest, but as a duty to myself, and my responsibility to the people being further marginalized thanks to those like you. It is a torch that was passed to us by those who lost their lives fighting and dying so I might write these words. The gift given to be, so that I might enjoy a better time they would never see in their lifetime.