Saturday, October 25, 2008

beginings of a poem

There are mornings when I wake—
my mother’s hands firm in my mind
her jagged skin, split nails,
engine grease lodged into their cracks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Class Issues and the Transgender Community

I've been at the task of making generalizations about the trans people I've met over the last 6 months of researching and being fairly active in trans communities in the area, and the one set of issues that comes to the surface most blantantly is class issues.

If the standard of living of normative society could be measured on a 1-10 scale, I think the whole spectrum of transfolk could fit within 1-6 and probably would cluster around 2-4. What does it mean that I was part of an organizing body whose six core members were mostly underemployed or unemployed despite having marketable skills (the group included a lawyer, a marketing executive, a web developer)? These are the leaders. They and others like them are the people in our community who have the most education and stability who are most willing and able to start families. These are our success stories. And among the people I admire most in our community, none of them have health insurance. Many of them are married to bio-women who make more money than they do (we all know that bio-women make 75% of what bio-men do). Many are part-time employees. Few own the houses they live in. Most do a little bit of a lot of things to barely make ends meet.

It's not just that the trans community are poor, but that we are one of the only downwardly mobile communities I can think of (if you ave others then please leave a comment). This means that on average trans people have less wealth than their parents. Whereas most people maintain the same level of wealth as their parents or even gain wealth (because they have access to cultural capital that helps them accrue wealth) to pass onto future generations. What does it mean that our children are less likely to go to college than we were, less likely to own a house, less likely to have access to any number of opportunities purely by virtue of their parent's gender identity/expression?

Most frustrating of all is that I don't know where I'm going to end up even within this community. I know that my life (materially and in other respects) will probably look a lot more like the trans activists I interview than like my mother's life. However, I don't know if I'll end up transitioning. I don't know if I'll ever get that male privilege. I doubt that I'll ever get straight privilege or even gender-normative-woman privilege. I guess the more I think about the future, then more I feel oppressed.

Muslim Children Gassed after Documentary Showing

I try not to repost things but this article is all I can think about at the moment. I will try to write a response later...

Muslim Children Gassed at Dayton Mosque After "Obsession" DVD Hits Ohio

Sun Sep 28, 2008 at 08:50:29 PM PDT

(From the diaries -- kos)

On Friday, September 26, the end of a week in which thousands of copies of Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West -- the fear-mongering, anti-Muslim documentary being distributed by the millions in swing states via DVDs inserted in major newspapers and through the U.S. mail -- were distributed by mail in Ohio, a "chemical irritant" was sprayed through a window of the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton, where 300 people were gathered for a Ramadan prayer service. The room that the chemical was sprayed into was the room where babies and children were being kept while their mothers were engaged in prayers. This, apparently, is what the scare tactic political campaigning of John McCain's supporters has led to -- Americans perpetrating a terrorist attack against innocent children on American soil.

I read the story as reported by the Dayton Daily News, but this was after I had received an email written by a friend of some of the victims of these American terrorists. The matter of fact news report in the Dayton paper didn't come close to conveying the horrific impact of this unthinkable act like the email I had just read, so I asked the email's author for permission to share what they had written. The author was with one of the families from the mosque -- a mother and two of the small children who were in the room that was gassed -- the day after the attack occurred.

"She told me that the gas was sprayed into the room where the babies and children were being kept while their mothers prayed together their Ramadan prayers. Panicked mothers ran for their babies, crying for their children so they could flee from the gas that was burning their eyes and throats and lungs. She grabbed her youngest in her arms and grabbed the hand of her other daughter, moving with the others to exit the building and the irritating substance there.

"The paramedic said the young one was in shock, and gave her oxygen to help her breathe. The child couldn't stop sobbing.

"This didn't happen in some far away place -- but right here in Dayton, and to my friends. Many of the Iraqi refugees were praying together at the Mosque Friday evening. People that I know and love.

"I am hurt and angry. I tell her this is NOT America. She tells me this is not Heaven or Hell -- there are good and bad people everywhere.

"She tells me that her daughters slept with her last night, the little one in her arms and sobbing throughout the night. She tells me she is afraid, and will never return to the mosque, and I wonder what kind of country is this where people have to fear attending their place of worship?

"The children come into the room, and tell me they want to leave America and return to Syria, where they had fled to from Iraq. They say they like me, ... , and other American friends -- but they are too afraid and want to leave. Should a 6 and 7 year old even have to contemplate the safety of their living situation?

"Did the anti-Muslim video circulating in the area have something to do with this incident, or is that just a bizarre coincidence? Who attacks women and children?

"What am I supposed to say to them? My words can't keep them safe from what is nothing less than terrorism, American style. Isn't losing loved ones, their homes, jobs, possessions and homeland enough? Is there no place where they can be safe?

"She didn't want me to leave her tonight, but it was after midnight, and I needed to get home and write this to my friends. Tell me -- tell me -- what am I supposed to say to them?"

When acting as a representative of Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the 501(c)3 non-profit organization that I work for, I cannot engage in political activities. The distribution of Obsession, however, although a political campaign scheme, clearly crosses over into the mission of MRFF. So, I'm going to make two statements here -- one in my capacity as MRFF's Research Director, and another as an individual whose disgust at the vile campaign tactics of John McCain's supporters completely boiled over when I opened up the email about children being gassed.

My statement as MRFF's Research Director:

The presidential campaign edition of the Obsession DVD, currently being distributed by the Clarion Fund, carries the endorsement of the chair of the counter-terrorism department of the U.S. Naval War College, using the name and authority of an official U.S. military institution not only to validate an attack the religion of Islam, but to influence a political campaign. For these reasons, this endorsement has been included in MRFF's second lawsuit against the Department of Defense, which was filed on September 25 in the Federal District Court in Kansas.

My opinion as an individual and thoroughly appalled human being:

John McCain has a moral obligation to publicly censure the Clarion Fund, the organization that produced Obsession and is distributing the DVDs; to denounce the inflammatory, anti-Muslim message of Obsession; and to do everything in his power to stop any further campaign activities by his supporters that have the potential to incite violence.

[article from]

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Freewrite: How did your family produce gender?

I grew up with a mother who was a jet engine mechanic. When I think of her, I think of greasy fingernails and engine oil. She wore a dress to church because her theology demanded it. She got a nose ring when she retired because she could. I think of intelligibility.

I learned how to hate shopping during adolescence, against the backdrop of a perennial argument over which section to buy my clothes in. She couldn’t bear to buy her only daughter (the only child) clothes in the men’s department. “They didn’t fit well” she reasoned, and when logic would fail her, she knew shame could always do the trick, “why don’t we just forgo the pants and save up for the operation.”

I never knew what the operation was. I knew it only as a cue. I was supposed to roll my eyes and laugh…to protest that, of course that wasn’t what I wanted. It was a mysterious character evoked to loom over my decisions. The operation was a threat placed precariously on the brink of desperation—hers and mine—when we entered into split-in-down-the-middle mall stores.

I remember the day I told her I was jealous. She was admonishing me on how I’d need to grow up someday and wear woman’s clothes like an adult. “But Mom…you don’t,” I pointed out. She wore combat boots and dungarees to work. She got to shop in stores that didn’t even have a woman’s section. I felt more like her failure than my victory when we walked out of the store, cargo pants in hand, towards a silent ride home.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Freewrite: When do you pass?

I’m more aware of when don’t pass than when I do.

I pass when I pass out of danger. When mistakes and assumptions make me more safe rather than less. I passed in grade school when boys were too afraid of loosing to fight me. I pass when I came to college and northerners confided in me about how racist and ignorant those southerners are. I passed in grocery stores when I was on food stamps and I went to the self-check out line, so friends assumed I was using my ATM card.

I pass when I escape scrutiny. When people don’t imply that I secretly want to be something I don’t allow myself to be. I pass in Pride meeting when lesbian couples want to adopt me. I pass when other people make my life easier because they think I’m like them. I pass when I’m hitchhiking and mothers stop their cars because they wouldn’t want their daughters to be picked up by skeezy truck drivers.

I pass when I want to and when I don’t. I pass when other confer a privilege on me that I have not come to expect.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Halloween circa 1990

I've been working on a documentary about the military and my family (see previous post entitled documentary abstracts for synopsis). Only recently did I start asking for pictures. I was nervous about asking for any kind fof compliance. I'm still scared of my mother.

There are so many stories I could tell (and have told) about my mother, but for a moment today, my mother sent me a picture of the two of us, and I could have sworn we were a family...

It was Halloween circa 1990 (as if you couldn't tell by the hair) and we were living on base in Sicily. Dressing up for Halloween is a quintessentially American thing to do of course, so it was only celebrated in the barracks with the handful of kids at the school on base. The correlary, of course, was that there was no place on the whole island where she could buy me a costume. Even the NAVY exchange (a government owned and operated department store) didn't have costumes in my size except princesses. I was pretty clear that I would rather not go than be a princess. My mother, wanting for her daughter to be able to celebrate with the other kids, decided to make my costume for me. It took months of gathering appropriate materials (they were exotic and therefore expensive. Also, she earned very little since she hadn't made rank yet). She would sew it together on weekends. But finally it was done. I sat through painstaking hours of make-up application. I was a clown for all three years we lived in Sicily. It's a great picture, no?

"Activists are my people"

My girlfriend asks me good questions. It’s one of the reasons I like her so much. She asks me why don’t I ever talk about personal growth outside of political growth. I try to explain that for some people personal growth is inextricably intertwined with a social and historical moment. For some people personal growth is melded seamlessly into the times, into the reciprocal relationship with their environment shaping and reshaping one another in their own image. For some people, community is movement in a way that nothing else can be. We argue over whether or not my answer if just some updated version of “personal is political.” I don’t know how to explain to her that jews are her people and queers are her people but activists are mine.…

Sunday, October 5, 2008

acknowlege defeat

So here's the part where I acknowledge defeat. My blog's not going to be what I want it to be. The content is what I want. Te fequency isn't as I had hoped. I am feeling utterly uninspired. I feel like my life is going nowhere, and I have nothing insightful to say. Basically, I'm feeling depressed in a huge way.

Oh yeah, and I'm thinking about going by Dillian.