How To Be a Girl, episodes I through VI

I wanna recommend a podcast!  It’s called How To Be A Girl.  A while back ago, I had been following a blog, gendermom, on wordpress.  It’s written by Marlo Mack (pseudonym), about life with her (now) 8 year-old transgender daughter, M.  I really love reading/hearing from the perspective of parents, especially parents of young trans-kids.  And this one in particular has a lot of input from the daughter.  They are in it together.

In the summer of 2014, she branched out and also started producing a podcast.  At first I was reluctant to check it out.  I guess because although I was listening to some podcasts at that time, I preferred reading and connecting through blogs.  But then one of the episodes was featured on a podcast I was already a big fan of, Here Be Monsters, and I made a mental note to go check out the rest of the episodes.  It’s taken a while, but here I am to say it’s great, haha.  I listened through episodes 1-6 twice now…

The first three establish some backstory and facts (I’m not going to give too much away!).  At this point, M is 6, and she has the support of her mom and dad (who are divorced) and other family members and friends.  Hardly anyone knows that she is trans (better to be more cautious at first and see how things might play out).  She had been saying she is a girl, basically as early as she could talk, and although it took a long time to convince her parents, they are fully on board now.  She likes the color pink, my little ponies, stuff like that…

Episode 4 is called Tom Boy Trans Girl, and it’s about, how girly do you have to be to be considered a girl?  There are plenty of tomboys out there…  M gradually shifts to liking blue over pink and getting into Pokemon and ninjas.  Marlo Mack is afraid the being-a-girl thing was just a phase.  M sums everything up super succinctly.

Episode 5 is about finding love.  Marlo Mack has to navigate through transphobia from potential dating partners, and she talks about how she handles it.  M also tells a love story.

Episode 6  is super cute.  It is a straight-up interview, Marlo Mack asking M a bunch of questions.  The perspective of this 6-year-old is really amazing and surprising.  Well, she’s been through a lot, so I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising!

Some talk about the other episodes, coming soon!

My spouse and I have been talking about the idea of working on a podcast together.  We have a local community of radio people we can plug into / in with, and I already do a weekly music show.  This would be totally different though, and would involve a steep learning curve.  We got some books out of the library (always a good place to start!), and I’ve been trying to pull apart, think about the elements that go into the podcasts I do listen to:  the way the sound editing overlaps, the hooks to keep you listening, stuff like that.  We’ll see.  I think it would be a lot of work, but could be really rewarding.


Big, Burly, and Beautiful

This piece was first published in the zine, Not Trans Enough.  Written by Rhiannon Robear; reprinted with permission.

One night this summer, I was at the gay club looking glam, and having a smoke break outside with my friends.   A cis gay guy came up to us and started talking about trans things in that “you’re a visibly trans and/or gender non-conforming person so I’m about to lay down all my trans knowledge, thoughts, and critiques for you” kind of way (a.k.a. completely unasked/unwanted).  Overall it was a real drag, and I brushed him off mostly, but then he held my hands and looked me in the eyes and said, “baby, I know you’re trying to be the belle of the ball, but the reality is you’re built like a 6 foot amazon linebacker, and you need to work that.”  I was taken aback like where the fuck do you get off telling me who I am and what I should do.  But as much as I hate entertaining cis-notions of what trans people are or should be, what he said was true, and deep inside me I knew I felt that and it was the first time someone told me that I could &should be a woman on my own terms.

The reality is:  I’m 5’11, probably between 250-300 pounds, hairy as all hell, and I wear size 13 women’s shoes:  I’m a big girl.  I spent years of my life identifying as a gay man, and trying to work at accepting and loving my body & myself in a culture that taught me that being fat & being femme made me undesireable, unattractive, and inferior.  It took me YEARS to be comfortable with who I am, and that process has changed me, and how I value myself – simply put:  I don’t do things for other people anymore, I do things for myself.

I identified as non-binary for the past two years, and over this time, I’ve slowly began to come into myself as a woman, and I’m currently in the process of coming out as a transgender woman.  It’s very exciting and liberating and I’m now out at work and am ‘test driving’ my new name and pronouns.  This being said, what I am most dreading about coming out isn’t being faced with disapproval or abandonment (I am privileged with supportive family and friends), but more about those in my life forcing feminine ideals upon me when I start to identify as a woman and not strictly non-binary.

In a perfect world, would I like to wear a full face of make-up, have minimal to no body hair, have a feminine physique, and be read 100% of the time as a woman?  – SURE!  But the reality is, I work two jobs, I’m a full time student, and I’m involved in a couple different organizations, and I don’t have time for that.  My emotional well-being is like, “you work at 8am, you don’t have time to put your face on for an hour every morning,” “you literally can’t even reach your back hair, how are you supposed to regularly keep that shaved,” etc.  Luckily for me, I think that the resilience I learned as a fat & femme gay man allows me to be comfortable in my own skin regardless of others’ perceptions.  I also recognize the privilege of being comfortable enough with myself & my gender to not be dysphoric to an incapacitating extent wherein I need to hold my body to a standard for public consumption.

Why yes!  I AM a woman with a hairy back – if it bothers you I’ll hand you a razor and you can shave it for me!  Until then please fuck off with your gendered policing and let me live my life on my terms.
Rhiannon Robear (she/her) is a 24 year old white trans woman living in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  She is a social work student, and is involved in many different campus and community organizations devoted to trans, queer, and feminist justice.  In her spare time she likes to knit, crochet, and watch tv shows.  Feel free to follow her on twitter @haliqueer or email her directly rhiannonmak@gmail.com


Changing people’s minds about transgender rights

It can happen, and the most effective way it can happen is through personal anecdotes and connecting emotionally with someone (one reason I write this blog!).  It’s going to happen through one-on-one conversations, as opposed to  on a mass scale (although you never know… things do tend to snowball after a certain point!), and (unfortunately) it’s most likely not going to happen by pointing out facts and statistics to someone.

A study was just published in last week’s issue of Science Magazine.  I heard about it through This American Life‘s most recent episode called For Your Reconsideration.  If you want to hear the pertinent content, click on the link – there’s a player right on that page, and just skip ahead to the times between 22:20 and 29:00.

It’s about canvassers going door to door to talk to people about transgender issues, and the data was recorded and processed.  The canvassers (who were both transgender themselves, and allies – and both were equally effective!) utilized a persuasion technique that’s been developed for close to 50 years by the LGBT Center in California.  It’s called analogic perspective taking:  “By inviting someone to discuss an experience in which that person was perceived as different and treated unfairly, a canvasser tries to generate sympathy for the suffering of another group—such as gay or transgender people.”

save-the-canvassers-570x300

This tactic has not worked so well with age-old topics such as abortion, probably because everyone has such solidified ideas ingrained into how they think about those issues.  Trans-issues are relatively new, and people are proving to be fairly malleable if approached in certain ways.  In many cases, people aren’t even sure what
“transgender people means.”  Canvassers had an informative video with them if this was the case.

So for example, there’s an audio clip from one voter, and he is stumbling over wordage.  He says, “There is one thing that disturbs me.  A man that is a fag using man’s clothes* and going into a ladies’ bathroom.  That I would not like.”  The canvasser spends time explaining the difference between “gay” and “transgender” (mentioning that we don’t use the word “fag,” and the voter apologizes).  The voter is the one who starts to reflect on his own experiences, and by the end of the conversation, he says, “I’m glad to be talking to an intelligent person that made me think about my own background.  That it was very old.”

This occurred in Miami:  in 2014, the county passed an ordinance banning discrimination against trans-people, and the canvassers are trying to convince voters that’s a good idea in case of backlash.  “56 canvassers—some transgender, others not— knock on the doors of 501 people living in Miami. As a control, some of the interviews focused not on transgender discrimination, but on recycling. In all cases, the 10-minute interview included a survey before and after to measure people’s attitudes regarding transgender people, as well as follow-ups ranging up to 3 months later.”

The goal is to get the voter to engage in a conversation, saying the words themselves, sort of so they’re able to hear their own opinions, and to see if there’s any wiggle room.  A lot of times, there is!  One out of 10 voters changed their minds over the course of a 20 minute conversation.  And when surveyed 3 months later, the change appears to have stuck.

This is so striking!  It made me envision myself going door to door.  Could I do that?  I’m not sure, but more likely, I could see myself being a part of a panel, and even more likely, I could see myself trying to get my writing out to a wider audience…

To make good on that, I’m going to post this on facebook!  (Something I rarely do.)  I’m gonna spread the word through my local indymedia too!  Any way possible.

I feel like there is hope.

All quotes are either from This American Life, or the Science Magazine article, here:  “For real this time: Talking to people about gay and transgender issues can change their prejudices.”

Also, as a note, there’s information about a study that came before this one, that was most likely falsified.  While this is intriguing, it kind of diverts attention away from the amazing findings of this more recent, scientifically sound, study.  So just kinda gloss over that controversy…

*I’m pretty sure he meant to say, “women’s clothes.”


Riot Acts: Flaunting Gender Deviance in Musical Performance

My spouse and I are coming off of a four-day weekend, and as part of that, we traveled and saw an awesome “rockumentary,” directed by Madsen Minax.  He was there in person, answering questions after the film.

Riot Acts: Flaunting Gender Deviance in Musical Performance was made between 2006 and 2009, in a really impressive way:  the director was in a band called Actor Slash Model, and as his band toured, they reached out to other bands with trans-members to play their shows with.  They’d play the show, crash for the night, and then wake up super early to interview that band and get other footage of them playing, and then move on to the next city/band.  Sounds exhausting!

They filmed in various formats – video, DV video, 16mm, and super 8 (plus including footage from the bands, which was probably in lots of different formats as well, which gave it a pretty rough, incongruous feel, but that’s an aesthetic choice that kind of worked for this film.  It felt pretty informal and dated, which the director seemed very much aware of – like it’s a snapshot of a time in trans-representation in music/media, and things have been changing a lot, even just in the last 5 years.  Almost everyone included, I had never heard of.  Here’s a list of those included:

Anderson Toone, currently from SF, has a long history in music, going back to forming a post-punk band in the early 80s called The Bloods, who opened for The Clash, Gang of Four, The Slits, The Go-Gos, Au Pairs, Adam Ant, The Lounge Lizards, Richard Hell, Johnny Thunders,The Fall, REM, DNA, Lydia Lunch, Bush Tetras, ESG, Allen Ginsberg, Nona Hendryx, The Treacherous Three.  First time I’ve heard of them – sounds like the kind of band I need to track down for my radio show!

Lipstick Conspiracy

Lipstick Conspiracy from SF – “Glitter, sneers, and ridiculously high heels are abundant, as are raging keyboard riffs and catchy lyrics.”  – San Francisco Weekly.  It was kind of hard to tell if they are currently active.

Katastrophe – a hip hop artist from SF.  He’s pretty famous, so maybe I don’t need to say a whole lot about him.  One great thing from the film – he got his start, before transition, doing slam poetry.  He went to the Michigan Womyn’s Festival with the Sister Spit Tour sometime in the late 90s / early 2000s.  He went to check out Camp Trans, and was blown away – from that moment, he started identifying as a transman and never looked back.  He also co-founded Original Plumbing in Oct. 2009.

Trannysaurus Sex, also from SF.  Could not find much on this band (the link is to a song from the film, on YouTube).  Definitely seems like they are not currently active.

Basic Fix from Portland, OR.  Couldn’t find much on this band either, but the lead singer/drag performer is still making music (electro/pop/R&B) under his name, Kelly Moe.  He starred in The Gossip’s music video “Listen Up” in 2006.

Ryder Richardson from Seattle – Not much on him either.  He currently has a personal Facebook profile as opposed to a musician/band page.  Looks like he is teaching carpentry to kids.  🙂  Any other info connecting him to music was through info about Riot Acts.

Tough Tough Skin from Minneapolis – Again, couldn’t find much current info about this punk/homocore band, but there are quite few videos from live shows on YouTube.  Here is one of them.

Venus DeMars also from Minneapolis.  Founded in 1994, Venus DeMars and All the Pretty Horses (glam rock band) is still going strong, having recently toured with Against Me!

Venus DeMars

Venus DeMars

Adhamh Roland is a singer/songwriter currently living in MA.  A lot has changed for him since the film, and he appears to be very much still active.  In the film, he was living in St. Louis and talking a lot about not wanting to medically transition because he was worried about what T would do to his singing voice.  (This was a HUGE topic in the film).  Looks like he decided to take the leap; seems to be working out for him.

Ryka Aoki De La Cruz is a LA based writer, performer, and professor (at Antioch and Santa Monica College).  She is super active in the trans-community.  Among a huge resume of accomplishments, she has been honored by the California State Senate for for her “extraordinary commitment to free speech and artistic expression, as well as the visibility and well-being of Transgender people.”

Jessica Xavier is from the Washington D.C. area and is an accomplished activist first and foremost.  She came out as trans in 1989, and fronted a band called Me Neither, wrote a song about Stonewall.  This link is a super dated website from 2004, but it’s got a lot of biographic information…

Ryka

Ryka Aoki De La Cruz

The Shondes were formed in 2006, right as this film was being made.  Since then, looks like their music has been blowing up – their website (link) is super active – full of photos, tour information, press, tweets, etc.  This is another band that recently toured with Against Me! (amongst a bunch of other well-known bands.  They’re from Brooklyn.

Novice Theory (Geo Wyeth), also from Brooklyn, is a multidisciplinary musician/performance artist.  Looks like you can hear his music / see his videos / see interviews on all kinds of sites (spotify, amazon, bandcamp, etc.) but in terms of image or professional website, all I could really find was his tumblr.  Still, check this guy out!  He is awesome!

Novice Theory

Novice Theory

The Degenerettes are a punk trio from Baltimore.  Looks like their website was last updated in 2011…  I saw them in my hometown, probably in 2008?  Super entertaining!  I have a friend who used to work with the lead singer at a video store in Baltimore!

Systyr Act are from Boston.  The link is to their facebook page – looks like it was last updated in 2013.  They’re a jokey/party type band, posing as nuns.

The Cliks are huge.  They’re from Toronto.  If you haven’t heard of them, check them out!

Coyote Grace is a roots/acoustic threesome from Sonoma County, CA.  They have a lot of output as a band, and as each member, individually as well.

Whew!  That was a lengthy rundown of some trans/gender variant people in music from the mid/late 2000s.  Some have disbanded, some have taken off.  Who is out there now?  Please comment with info about current bands!

 


Outdated trans programs pt. 3

My partner and I uncovered a video I had gotten while in a support group about 10 years ago – a collection of trans-related TV programs from the late 90s / early 2000s.  We’ve been spacing it out, watching some of it each weekend.

The first weekend, we watched The Discovery Channel’s “Changing Sexes,” from 2002.  It was appalling.
Next we watched an Oprah show about transgender kids, from 2004.  It was surprisingly well done.

Part 3 was a program on A&E from 1998 called, “The Transgender Revolution.”

As soon as we started watching it, my partner said she remembered seeing it in a class at College – that’s pretty cool.  And her reaction was positive, like it had been worthwhile.  And it was – it showcased a few trans-people in respectful and dignified ways.  It was also the most political, by far.  There was a clip of Leslie Feinberg, and there was footage of Riki Wilchins talking about hate crimes and founding Gender PAC.  She talked about going to senators to get policies changed, and going to the APA to get “Gender Identity Disorder” changed.  Brandon Teena was talked about, as well as two more recent cases of the murders of trans-women.

The first portrait focused on Tonye, from Tampa, FL.  He lives on a farm, works as a sheriff, has a wife and 8 year old daughter.  He talks about all the discrimination he has been up against at his job.  He also says his community has been hostile – his farm animals have been killed; other times they have been turned loose.  He started an online group called TOPS – Trans Officers Protect and Serve, in order to get support for people like him.  He had to undergo an internal confidential criminal investigation at his job, which he says is just a pretext for prejudice.  It was left on an uncertain note – we don’t know the outcome of his struggles at work.

Next the program focused on Nancy Nangeroni, an engineer from MA.  She talked a lot about overcompensating and living as a very macho guy, taking a lot of risks.  The turning point for her was when she endured horrible injuries from a motorcycle accident – she realized she could not keep living the way she had been.  One great quote from her:  “I’m not a pre-op or a post-op because that’s not what defines me as a person.”  She founded the IFGE – International Foundation of Gender Education.

The third portrait was really moving because it was done anonymously.  “Terry” never showed his face, and neither did his wife and his mother.  He owns a construction company and lives completely stealth.  He equated being trans to having cancer – it’s something that you live with, and getting treatment is a matter of life and death.  His story focused on him getting metoidioplasty.  It was made clear that he needed this procedure to be legally recognized as male – he was living in fear of being outed because his documents all had an “F” on them.

The program wrapped up by discussing the extremes of gender in the society we live in.  Toys, etc.  “In time, the movement may leave America forever changed.”  A nice note to end on.


Outdated trans programs pt. 1

My partner and I were recently sorting through / condensing our VHS collection.  We came across one that was labeled “transgender videos,” and it sparked a memory.  I was in a support group in 2005-2006, and one of the facilitators put together this tape and made copies for everyone.  It has 4 parts.  Parts 1 and 2 are from 2002 – a program on the Discovery Channel called Changing Sexes.  My partner and I watched this over the weekend.

We knew it was going to be really bad, but we could not envision how utterly atrocious it turned out to be.  This was only 13 years ago, and it’s amazing how far we’ve come; it’s like a public opinion time capsule…

First off, the term “transsexual” was used, and they got it wrong.  They referred to FTM trans people as “transsexual women” and MTF trans people as “transsexual men.”

Part 1 was about MTF trans people, and they focused on the stories of 3 people.  One was just coming out, one had been out for about a year, living her “real life test,” and one was getting ready to have surgery.  A LOT of time was devoted to her (Angela’s) journey toward surgery; they even followed her to Montreal and were in the operating room with her and her wife.  Angela was 59 and had just recently come out and starting taking hormones.  This last step would “complete her.”  (Her words.)  They pointed out how lucky she was, in that she could pass and in that her wife stayed with her.  She lived in Fresno, CA, and hosted a monthly support group in which people came from upward of 100 miles away to attend.

There were a lot of sensationalistic soundbites.  A couple:
“What pushes men to risk everything they have to become women?”
“Believing you were born in the wrong body may be a delusion that won’t be corrected with surgery.”
“Self-diagnosed illness.”
“Watching a parent change from male to female is bound to leave a strong mark on a child’s psyche.”

A therapist was quoted as saying, basically, that people may be convinced they are a transsexual, but once they start the theraputic process, they may come up with alternatives to having to go through a sex change.

Kenneth Zucker, from the Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, was on the program, basically saying that transsexual tendencies come from one’s upbringing, and that kids have developmental plasticity, even if there is a biological predisposition.  I recently read this blog post, partially about Zucker – apparently he is still around, but his clinic is under review, and is not accepting new patients.

Part 2 started out with, “The story of four transsexual women, and their quest to live as men.”

Someone named Thomas Wise, MD, from Johns Hopkins, was quoted liberally in both sections.  More than once, he made an analogy to people struggling with anorexia.  Basically, would you allow them to continue to make changes to their bodies because they see themselves as too fat?  No?  Why should we allow people who see themselves as the other gender make changes to their bodies?

One of the stories was about someone named Dirk.  He was getting testosterone through a urologist, and he was binding with a combination of ace bandages and sports bras (no mention of how dangerous this is.)

More sensational sound bites:
“What defines a man?  Can women ever become one?”
“Are they real men?  Imposters?  Or something else?”
“She has started hormone injections, rendering him virtually unrecognizable.”

Again, the segment focused heavily on surgeries (both top and bottom), again with footage from the OR.

Twice, a study was brought up, from the Netherlands, in which scientists thought they may have pinpointed a part in the brain, the BSTC structure.  In autopsied MTF people, the size was closer to that of a biological woman, and in FTM people, the opposite.  Other scientists debunked the findings, saying that it was the cross-hormones that changed the brain structure.  It was unclear what finding or not finding this evidence might imply for trans-people.

This program was worthwhile in showing human stories, and that’s what I remember taking away when I first watched it in 2006.  Although it was invasive and sensationalistic, these were real people going through real adversity, and it felt important to me at the time.  I told a friend who was also in the group that I had unearthed this video, and he said he has purposefully never watched it.  I don’t blame him.  I mean, it’s not something I would consider “supportive” of trans people.  (That’s a huge understatement).  So for it to be given out at a support group – I mean, that’s all that was available at the time – it’s what was out there.

It’s reassuring to see that public opinion is changing, but there are still plenty of people who hold on to archaic notions about “transsexuals.”

Stay tuned for part 2 – talking about an Oprah show about transgender children, and an A&E investigative reports:  Transgender Revolution.


2015 U.S. Trans Survey

This is a follow up to the largest (at the time) survey for trans-people, conducted in 2009.  At the time, 6,400 people participated – this one is aiming for upwards of 700,000!

Take the survey here:  U.S. Trans Survey

us trans survey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is available through September 21, and it will be repeated (probably with changes) every 5 years.  It will help policy makers enact change, so it’s super important!  It covers a wide range of topics and possible types of discrimination, from housing to health care, coming out to relationships, sexual orientation, disability status, education level, income, etc.  Interestingly, it didn’t cover mental health status.  It asked a couple questions about suicidality and current levels of depression, but nothing about mental health history or diagnoses.  That was the one thing I found to be lacking.

At the end of the survey, there is a chance to write in your own story!  Whether you want to elaborate on a time you were discriminated against or you want to share a time you were treated with respect, you get free-form write.  I’m not sure how long they let you write – I wrote pretty briefly about the time I was hospitalized and the staff treated me with respect.

The survey is pretty lengthy – it’ll take 30-60 minutes.  But it doesn’t time out or anything – I came back to it about 2 times because I was doing some other things.

If you identify as trans in any way (genderqueer, bigender, agender, transman, transwoman, etc.) you should totally take this survey!  (And there is a place to write in how you identify, if you don’t identify with any of the choices offered!)


Do you want to be on TV?

A couple of days ago, I got an email from someone named Rachel, a casting associate with Magilla Entertainment, a New York-based television production company that specializes in non scripted programming.  Which I’m guessing is synonymous with reality TV shows?

Here’s a link to their website and current programs:  Magilla TV

They are developing a new show that will follow different people changing their lives in various ways, and one episode will focus on multiple trans-people and varying stages in their transition.  They will be pairing people up with a mentor or coach to help them through aspects such as coming out, starting to wear clothes they identify with, and contemplating surgery.

Rachel asked me if I’d consider becoming a coach for the show, and although I’m flattered, there’d be NO WAY I would do this!  For one thing, I’m an introvert and although I can envision contributing to an anthology or being a part of a magazine story, this is way way way too BIG.  Also, the premise is intriguing, but I fear the tone could become exploitative (as is the nature of reality shows, usually).

If you’re not scared off by these types of things though, this might be the right fit for you.  Here is the casting call and contact information:

ARE YOU STRUGGLING WITH YOUR GENDER IDENTITY?

Are you struggling with who you are? Do you feel like you were born into the wrong body? Are you living life as the opposite gender you were given at birth? Magilla Entertainment and a major cable network are now casting men and women who identify as the opposite gender and who are considering going through a transition for a new docu-series. If you have been struggling with your gender identity and want the support of a coach or mentor as you transition, we want to hear your story. If you think you are ready to embark on this journey, please contact us ASAP at castingdirector@magilla.tv with your name, age, location, occupation, contact phone number, a recent photo and a few sentences about yourself.

I’m glad for the increase in media representations lately and really hope they aim to showcase a diverse group of trans-people.  Demonstrate that not all narratives are the same.  (For example, point out that not every trans-person identifies with having been “born into the wrong body.”  Another example: a non-binary person!)  And, most importantly, to convey these struggles with the deserved respect!


Janitors in pop culture #3 / awesome film about a transwoman

I recently was at an LGBT film festival and specifically planned ahead to catch a film from Finland called Open Up To Me (Kerron Sinulle Kaiken).  If you want to see it, this blog post is going to contain details you might not want to read about in advance, just a heads up!

Super highly recommend this film.  It follows the life of Maarit, a transwoman, for a few months, starting at the point of her last appointment with her gender therapist – the tone of that first scene, the therapist’s farewell message, is:  now spread your wings and fly.  Maarit had been forced through a lot of sacrifices in the process of becoming who she is.  She is separated from her wife and estranged from her teenaged daughter (we get the sense the daughter is open and figuring this out for herself; it is the mother who is standing in the way.)  She has moved away from where she once lived and worked as a school social worker.  She now leads a lonely existence and works as a janitor within a huge office building.

open up to me film still

There are only two or three scenes where she is depicted at her work (and it’s just her coming and going.  Loading a van, pushing a cart full of supplies).  The story is not about that work, other than utilizing it as a plot device for somewhere she has landed and is unhappy about.  She (understandably) yearns to get back into her chosen profession of helping people as soon as possible.  She wants this so badly that she ends up posing as a therapist (through a series of misunderstandings) while on the job.

Which brings me to a reason I loved this film…  It falls back on some unpleasant tropes common to trans characters in the media, but it ends up twisting them and rising above those ideas, to portray Maarit as a very human, very real, complex, well… person.

Transperson as deceitful:  Although Maarit deceives someone about her profession (and she quickly comes clean), she never once is attempting to deceive anyone about her transgender status.  She is proud, self-assured, and upfront with those around her (on an as-needed basis), even in the face of speculation and slander, discrimination, and violence.

Transperson as hypersexual:  Maarit is not portrayed as a hypersexual person.  It is clear that she is looking for intimacy, emotional connections, and a long-term partner.  Instead, some of the characters around her are hypersexualizing her, and that seems more about them and their own issues, rather than who she actually is as a person.  The film makes this very clear.

Transperson as dangerous and/or tragic:  Maarit is in a very difficult place (there are other aspects of her life that have fallen apart.  I won’t give away every detail!) and there are certainly scenes where she is in over her head, where she is compromised, where she seems desperate.  It feels realistic – it very much seems that some choices she makes are due to (and only due to) being pushed so far into a corner, and she’s just trying to find her way back to where she can live her life.  Those choices are not about who she is, inherently.  It’s circumstantial.  Some of these scenes, although hard to watch, feel triumphant at the same time.  For example, at one point, she is attacked by an ex-lover.  She ends up punching him in the face and ending the attack.  Awesome.

I’m so glad LGBT film festivals exist – opportunities to get out there and see films I wouldn’t have heard about otherwise.  This year, I saw this one, and another trans-specific one (52 Tuesdays – sadly, I didn’t enjoy this one all that much.  It felt overly melodramatic, the characters didn’t feel believable.)  My partner and I have gone to other films over the years, and it’s interesting that it always seems like there’s films for men and films for women.  We’ve been to films before where we’re the only ones in the theater who are not cis-men (that’s an assumption, of course, but over and over again, it has been very much divided, and it is so bizarre to me.)  At these two films (which were both well attended), there was a very diverse cross-section.  I liked that.

Also, the film festival puts out an annual literary anthology, and this year’s theme was personal pronouns.  I submitted, and my piece was accepted!  I’m now officially published, in an actual book with an ISBN # and everything!!!
The piece was a re-working of these two blog posts:
While I was “out,” part 2 – partly out of the closet, fully out of the loop
While I was “out,” part 3 – coming back