Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dinner with another KOT

I had dinner with my friend Jonathan a few nights ago. He is a self-described nomad and quite an interesting fellow. We met through the COLAGE community via internet and phone. This past fall, we met in person at Southern Comfort in Atlanta, where we sat on a panel of people with transgender parents. His father is also a woman. She transitioned when Jonathan was twenty-one. Jonathan is a storyteller and seeks the stories of others with transgender parents to create an anthology of essays. If I can figure out how to post audio, I will post a recording of his story 'I am My Father's Son'.

We met up with my friend Ruby and saw this great SF band called Rupa and the April Fishes. It looks like they'll be traveling to NYC and Austin soon, so check them out.

Speaking of traveling, I'll be back on the east coast on Thursday night! I am looking forward to the snow and multitude of reunions.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Resources GO and Mo

I'm still getting used to having a blog, so I will keep updating it as I remember. I had a great weekend in San Fran, which has me feeling grounded here for the moment. Of course, my flight back east for the holidays is next week. The intentionality with which I'm treating December seems to be working. This city is certainly good for manifesting intentions.

A few of my KOT-related intentions were realized this week. One was to create an
email list specifically for people with transgender parents. Another was to update the list of Transgender Family Resources on the COLAGE website. I created this survey to collect the stories and advice of folks with transgender parents for the resource guide. If you or someone you know fits the bill, it's not too late to fill it out. I'll even send you a little thank you package. The amazing thing about networking is that it really does work. I emailed the survey to all of my contacts and for the last month or so I've been receiving a multitude of KOT experiences in my inbox. I remember a time when I was sure that my sister and I were the only ones. What a pleasure it's been to prove myself wrong.

I'm beginning to write the actual resource guide, which is really daunting, but will be my main focus for the next few months. Meredith reminded me today that I am an expert. The challenge of creating the content is in articulating what I know into the form of a resource guide for youth.
This is the culmination of years of research and activism, so it's hard to push it all out. Not as much a birthing process as my thesis... maybe it's easier with the second one; i'm used to carrying the weight from the first time. This feels more like I'm birthing Joanna Newsom - "I wasn’t born of a whistle, or milked from a thistle at twilight./ No; I was all horns and thorns, sprung out fully formed, knock-kneed and upright." This resource guide will be ready to walk as soon as it's printed. We've been waiting; all of us.

In other news, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) published a critical review of transgender coverage in the media. There has been a good deal of progress in terms of humanized, rather than sensationalized, coverage of transgender people, who now appear on Larry King instead of Jerry Springer. There is still a fixation on "the operation", whether people have had it or not.

I've never liked this question, which comes up when I disclose to someone that my father is a transwoman. "So, has he..er..she had the surgery?" When I'm feeling bold, I respond, "How would you like it if I asked about your parent's genitalia?" Most times, I calmly explain that she lives as a woman and that I'm really not interested in discussing the operation. This question bothers me for the obvious (i don't want to think about my parent's genitals), but the FAIR article reminds me of the other reasons. Why are those hung up on the gender binary so fixated on this miraculous surgery? They assume that there are only two sexes and in order to become a woman, you would need to lose your penis. (God forbid the media include a narrative other than the upper/middle-class white MTF transsexual.) Gender is a spectrum. Genitalia does not necessarily determine gender identity. Stop talking about the operation. It is none of your business.

It is always encouraging when some one else publishes something you'd been wishing anybody would say. FORGE published a list of SOFFAs who were victims of transphobia in honor of this year's Transgender Day of Remembrance. Loree Cook-Daniels has written a great deal about the role of SOFFAs in the trans community and she reflects on the impact of transphobia here. She is becoming one of my heroes.

I attended the SF Trans Day of Remembrance event with my boyfriend while he was visiting over Thanksgiving. (He is not in the photo from the Sentinel.) The intersections of my SOFFA identity were tangible on November 20th. Earlier that day, I wrote this piece from a KOT perspective. Then, I met up with K for the event at the LGBT center, visible as the SO of a transman. We saw Jamison Green speak, which is always a treat. After the vigil was over, I approached him to say hello. We had met this spring at IFGE and talked about his daughter. I've been trying to get her involved in KOT stuff, but it seems she's not interested. Maybe I wouldn't be either if my parent were a professional transgender activist. Well, my dad has taught me some things about transgender issues and activism, but she leaves the conference going and organizing to me.

I never said this wasn't complicated.

Today, though, it feels pretty good to be a super SOFFA.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Looking for a Road Map

This week I found myself wishing for a map. After the holiday, it was hard to get back into project mode and I found myself overwhelmed by everything I hope to accomplish in the next few months. My friend was talking about 'generation me' this morning, that we have too many choices and too much information so we are constantly trying to plan the next thing, but find the choices increasingly overwhelming. Perhaps this is part of my problem?

When I started this work over four years ago, I was seeking corroboration, a collection of others' experiences that resonated with my own. It had never occurred to me to look before then.

Ten years ago this month, my four-year old sister told me, "some people are girls on the inside and girls on the outside, like you and me. Some people are girls on the inside and boys on the outside, like Dad." A very memorable conversation with my father followed. My dad was becoming a woman... (s)he had been seeing a gender therapist... (s)he would start taking hormones in January... (s)he had half a closet full of women's clothing and a makeup mirror. All of this was news to me. Dad handed me a pamphlet about transgender people and I went into my room to cry. I wanted a pamphlet for me, one that explained what it meant to have a parent transition, one that made me feel less alone in my experience and gave me some sort of guidance. To be honest, I never read the other pamphlet.

It wasn't until years later when my high school friend sent me an excerpt from Noelle Howey's book that I realized I was still missing that pamphlet. I sat on the green line train in Boston, reading Noelle's story about her father's transition, and the tremors of her story ran through me. My eyes teared as I realized it was time to start talking about this part of my life. It was time to find others because, for the first time, I realized they existed.

I decided to focus my anthropology honors thesis on 'the social experience of people with transgender parents'. Surely, I would find research some brilliant scholar had completed and supplement that work with my own experiences. My library search came up with a few results: Noelle's memoir, Noelle's collection of essays by people with LG or T parents (Out of the Ordinary), and a psychological study by Dr. Richard Green stating that people with transsexual parents are 'normal'. Clearly, not enough material on which to base a thesis.

Rather than depending on secondary sources, I decided to do qualitative interviews with people with transgender parents. When I started contacting organizations and web-based support groups, everyone told me that I was doing really important work (i.e., work that still needed to be done). This revelation was exhilarating and terrifying. Was this really my responsibility? When I contacted Abigail Garner to see whether she knew of any, she echoed the need for my work and asked to interview me for her book. That summer, I attended my first Familyweek and connected to the queerspawn community and COLAGE for the first time. It changed my life and made me truly grateful that my father is a transwoman, because that fact connects me to this incredible movement and community. So began my journey into becoming a professional queerspawn.

I am finally writing the pamphlet that I'd hoped for ten years ago. It will be more like a resource guide. I am still exhilarated and a bit terrified, but I know that it's my work to do. Thankfully, there is a great organization and a beautiful community supporting me in this journey. Unfortunately, they don't have the map either. I guess that's the beauty of it... this is my path to chart myself.