Tina K. Russell

June 28, 2010

Nowhere is safe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 12:38 pm

Sometimes people think I must be pretty safe, as a trans person in a liberal city like Eugene, attending the University of Oregon. After all, don’t hate crimes happen, like, in the Deep South, and in developing countries?

…And certainly not, say, California?

Police are reporting that a 27-year-old transgender student at CSU Long Beach was slashed in a men’s room on campus earlier this month.

Although the attack took place ten days ago, the university only made it public this Friday.

The student’s assailant addressed him by name before the attack, asking him whether he was that person. The victim of the assault did not recognize his attacker, but was able to provide police with information enabling them to create a sketch.

Police have not said whether they are investigating the incident as a hate crime. The Long Beach Post has, however, reported that a Facebook entry on the incident claimed that the attacker carved the word “IT” into the victim’s chest.

The attacked student was treated for his injuries in a local hospital and released that evening.

via Transgender Student Slashed In Campus Restroom « Student Activism, via Questioning Transphobia.

This is the fear I live in, every day, in the back of my mind. I could walk down the wrong street, go on the wrong date, be in the wrong hallway at the wrong time, and—bam!—my lifetime of remaining mostly un-trans-bashed would end with injuries, rape, or worse.

Cis women know this fear to some extent as well, of course, given our sexist society. But when a trans man is attacked, while using the bathroom at a state school in sunny California, and the attacker carves into his chest using a knife, it’s the sort of thing that chills me to my core. We, as trans people, aren’t even safe when using the bathroom. At school. If you’re not safe at your own school when you’re only trying to pee, you’re not safe anywhere.

Even in California, the bleeding West Coast, we’re not safe.

Pray for me.

(Two notes. Number one: I couldn’t find anything saying whether or not the physical scars left by the carving would heal. I can’t think of anything more terrifying than walking around for the rest of my life with an anti-trans slur carved onto my chest. The emotional scars will take time to heal, but I certainly hope the physical scars will heal up soon.)

(Number two: Transgender Day of Remembrance records 60 deaths of trans people due to transphobic violence in the US West Coast (defined as Washington, Oregon, and California) since 1970, and that’s only what’s reported. 56 of these deaths were in California. Part of the reason I tend to think I’m safer than others is because I’m white, and I’m in college, which removes many risk factors in our prejudiced society right there. So, part of my thinking was that if a trans man whose race was unreported can be attacked at a West Coast state school, so can I, a white trans woman at a West Coast state school. I shouldn’t let my white privilege get in the way of remembering, though, that my region of the US has plenty of transphobic violence, and that an attack on any of us is an attack on all.)

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June 27, 2010

Dear Gender (Free) For All: Don’t erase me; I am not gender-free

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 1:16 am

I wrote this to the Portland organization Gender (Free) For All just now. It’s pretty self-explanatory. The short version is that I thought the group’s 2009 march was supposed to be for all trans people, but it felt more like it was for only some. Key poor choices effectively erased my identity, making me feel like I wasn’t welcome.

(Note that, as a grammar nut, I also have a problem with parentheses in a proper name, but I decided to choose my battles in the letter itself.)

Hey, there. I was reading about the recent Trans March in San Francisco and I got to thinking.

I attended the Gender (Free) For All march in 2009, and I really enjoyed it. (I was the one with a red cape and black bikini.) Still, the name upset me; I want to be proud of being transgender, and of being transsexual, and I know that we never agree on labels but I want “transgender” to be inclusive of the whole community (whether trans-binary, genderqueer, otherwise gender-variant, cross-dressers, etc.). The difficulty of ensuring that the historically marginalized genderqueer community is included is an important issue, but I’ve always felt that “Gender (Free) For All” as a name only makes the problem worse. I don’t consider myself to be gender-free, nor do any gender-binary folk, and not all genderqueer folk either. In fact, I worked hard, all my life, to be known as a woman. My gender identity is extremely important to me. When I feel like it’s being taken away, by insinuations that I am (or should be) “gender-free,” liberated from the concept of gender entirely, it hurts, and it reinforces the idea that trans people are automatically a “third gender” even if they are trans-binary like me.

(I know the name has parentheses in it, but really, I cannot parse what “gender for all” would mean. It doesn’t make sense.)

As if to confirm my fears, as I lined up for the show-and-tell segment, I saw and heard that one of the questions asked was if participants agreed with the “either-or” system of gender. Now, as I explained, I don’t, because it’s unfair to people who feel it does not include them. Personally, though, I continued, I am a woman, and want—and work hard for—people to see me that way. It was bizarre, because I was essentially fed a position I strongly agree with, but phrased in a way that made me have to feel I had to defend my own identity, that I was working from a “default” of being, well, “gender-free.” It was, all told, pretty offensive.

So, if you do another march—and I would really like you to, given my pride in Portland and my pride in being trans—I would deeply appreciate if you call it simply the “Trans March,” because, in all honesty, I’m tired of feeling ashamed for being trans, tired of being shunted back of the “LGBT” initialism, tired of being treated like I’m a second-class queer. I want us to make sure we emphasize the diversity of “trans” and “transgender,” end the media stereotype that all trans people are binary women like me, and push inclusion of the genderqueer and otherwise gender-variant into every aspect of the trans movement and philosophy. We need to stop pretending that “transgender” is monolithic, that there’s only one way to be trans. There are as many ways to be trans as there are trans people. I am not every trans person, nor do I ever want to be. Let’s take back the term “trans,” in all its prismatic beauty, and hold it up as a badge of honor instead of shying away from it in shame. Let’s celebrate every way there is to be trans, instead of falsely implying—as the name “Gender (Free) for All” does—that there is only one way.

Thank you.

—Tina Russell
https://tinarussell.wordpress.com/

I’ll keep you posted.

June 10, 2010

Take my advice: shut up

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Tina Russell @ 9:05 pm

You know what I’m sick of? Advice. “Take it slow and be friends first.” “Live every day as though it were your last.” “Tell him/her how you feel, or you may never get the chance.” “Give it time and don’t rush things.”

It seems like the people who say any of these things say all of them, and follow none of them. Or, perhaps, all of these well-meaning, hypocritical dispensers of dime-store sagely wisdom (and they include you) have simply congealed in my mind into this horror-figure, standing over my shoulder, who thinks she knows exactly how to run my life. The fact that the advice is contradictory and nonsensical does not matter. It’s not like she’s going to follow it. I’m supposed to follow it, cheerfully.

Here’s the piece of advice I trust, from It’s Not Funny if I Have to Explain It, the Dilbert retrospective by Scott Adams: “All advice is useless.” Amen.

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