Rolling trans arts thread

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I thought it might be useful to have a thread to discuss recent trans art, occasioned partly by forks/ulysses and I talking about Her Story in the Transparent thread, but mostly by the fact that there's a great deal of innovative art by trans people today, mostly in genres and media that don't require access to a great deal of capital, such as fiction and poetry on small presses like Topside and Biyuti, Twine games, performance art, punk rock, and zines. I'm considerably more interested in art by trans/nonbinary/GNC people than in cis representations of trans folks, but I'm not going to police this thread in that regard. If other trans ILXors want to promote their own projects here, that's also totally cool.

To situate my own interest in this, since I mostly just post on ILB, and since material conditions for trans people vary widely according to race, gender, class and location, among other factors: I'm a white queer trans woman living in a small, geographically isolated US college town, and I follow trans writers as best I can from that distance. I'll leave this open for other people to develop (though I expect the posts here may be scarce), but I'll leave a few links to relevant material from the last few years below.

Vetch Poetry Journal:

THEM, issue 1:

Nepantla (not a trans journal, but a significant venue for queer poets of color, including some trans writers):

Imogen Binnie, Nevada (text and link to purchase; Binnie didn't make this site, but she doesn't object to it):

"Know and Tell" (Katherine Cross on recent trans women's writing):

"Trans Women's Lit?" (Morgan M. Page in conversation with Casey Plett and Trish Salah):

"Rise of the Gender Novel" (Plett on recent cis novels about transition):

"Trans Women and the New Hypertext" (merritt kopas on digital genres):

Notes by the editors of the recent trans issue of the Offing:

one way street, Tuesday, 2 February 2016 23:46 (four years ago) link

Not super explicitly about trans issues (it's kind of a play about the way memories become unspeakable but also about transformation and sexual awakening i suppose) but i really enjoyed "A Ride on the Irish Cream"

I'm a big fan of Erin's and working with her tangentially on a Barbra Streisand piece she's doing in April:

from the perspective of a gay man, i will post them now (forksclovetofu), Wednesday, 3 February 2016 03:28 (four years ago) link

Erin's partner, Becca Blackwell (who was great in Irish Cream) has a new piece about trans issues called "They Themself and Schmerm

Southern Comfort will be opening at The Public shortly; it's based on the classic film of the same name (which is also getting a one night revival at IFC)

Musical has already caught shit for overwhelmingly predominant cis-gender casting:

from the perspective of a gay man, i will post them now (forksclovetofu), Wednesday, 3 February 2016 03:35 (four years ago) link

oh and to be fair to OWS's opening manifesto, because it is both where you're from AND where you're at: i'm a white hetero biological male living in NYC and working in the performing arts field where i get the opportunity to see a lot of dope ass theater and film that crosses into trans issues either explicitly or casually.

from the perspective of a gay man, i will post them now (forksclovetofu), Wednesday, 3 February 2016 03:44 (four years ago) link

Thanks for the references, forks! I'd heard about the Southern Comfort musical, and its casting did sound remarkably lazy; I'm glad there's some public recognition of that. As my exposure to contemporary theater is pretty limited (I don't really have the resources to visit the city often), I'm not familiar with Markey or Blackwell, but I'll look out for their work.

one way street, Wednesday, 3 February 2016 04:04 (four years ago) link

i am a big fan of Taylor Mac who prefers the pronoun "judy"
so judy's show "a 24 decade history of popular music" is slated to happen this october; I've probably seen about eight separate decades, plus the six hour show last year and the Celebrate Brooklyn show last summer. i'm pretty excited about it; i expect it to be the best part of my year.

from the perspective of a gay man, i will post them now (forksclovetofu), Wednesday, 3 February 2016 04:36 (four years ago) link

Taylor's play "HIR" was great and thought provoking and hopefully will tour at some point. More pronoun conversations!
also one of the few creators who has made a real effort to cast trans actors in trans parts.
^ review misses the point repeatedly but it's a rave so there's that.

i thought the author symposium (down the page here: ) was super helpful.

from the perspective of a gay man, i will post them now (forksclovetofu), Wednesday, 3 February 2016 04:41 (four years ago) link
^ with machine dazzle, taylor's brilliant fashion architect

from the perspective of a gay man, i will post them now (forksclovetofu), Wednesday, 3 February 2016 04:42 (four years ago) link

Don't know anything about this series, but it just showed up on Amazon Prime. Appears to be trans written and acted.

ulysses, Friday, 5 February 2016 15:08 (four years ago) link

Only just seen this thread, excellent resource, thanks. Is it open to all gender identities to discuss artwork by trans* people or would you rather keep it to a trans*/queer/questioning space? It seems from your initial post to be open, but I just want to double check.

Things I am interested in/know about:

* If anyone wants to know about UK queerpunx I can probably give a brief guide, though I might googleproof a bit b/c I'm not sure I want to be seen as speaking for any bands in question, even though all I'd really be doing is describing and repping for them.

* I also know a bit about trans* art film through the ages, though probably not as much as others here.

* I can recommend some Brit trans* writers and projects if anyone is interested.

* I am an interactive fiction dork, and although I dislike most twine games as games I have watched with interest the growth of the twine community, and can only conclude it's a great tool for marginalised voices. (I also know some infighting gossip of this scene but probably wouldn't want to go into that, ha.)

I use the trans + asterisk convention as that is the most common way of writing it in the communities I know/am part of, I also use genderqueer and/or queer but tend to use that for people who I know like it, not everyone identifies that way - if the community here prefers something else let me know and I'll change. Or disappear if my presence seems inappropriate!

emil.y, Friday, 5 February 2016 15:49 (four years ago) link

i think it's just the three of us at the moment! Roll out!

ulysses, Friday, 5 February 2016 15:53 (four years ago) link

Thanks for the links, forks/ulysses! Taylor's work definitely sounds interesting (I'd seen some footage of judy's songbook project, and read some of Sarah Schulman's comments on Hir), and I'd like to read the play when I can, but I expect Taylor's work has to be experienced live to be properly appreciated. It reminds me also that drag and ballroom cultures are still kind of a blind spot for me insofar as I don't really have an "organic" or firsthand relation to those communities, although I know they've been been historically important as support networks for a lot of transfemme people, and influential on a lot of art in other spheres (like some of the work of Juliana Huxtable, Zackary Drucker, and Wu Tsang, most recently).

I'll check out Brothers; there's also another webseries in production, Eden's Garden, that focuses on men of color:

I've mentioned this on the rolling reading thread, but I've been immersing myself again in Bryn Kelly's writing in the weeks since her death; most of it is linked from here: Her story "Other Balms, Other Gileads" stands out as one of the most vivid texts I've read about the everyday experience of managing HIV and stigma today, but it doesn't quite prepare the reader for how bracing her humor could be in her other texts.


one way street, Friday, 5 February 2016 17:19 (four years ago) link

emil.y, I'd want to keep the thread open to posters of all genders (in principle, and also as a practical consideration given how few out trans people actually post on ILX), so yr participation is totally welcome here. As far as terminology goes, I don't really use the asterisk inasmuch as "trans" is already an umbrella category (I tend to use it in a way inclusive of nonbinary genders), but like obviously different communities have different preferences.

one way street, Friday, 5 February 2016 17:29 (four years ago) link

Cool, yeah, I'll stick to trans without the asterisk for the most part, then (it ends up looking weird if you use it too much, as in my post above).

I've kind of got a backlog of reading materials at the moment, but am about to read this memoir by, I want to say a friend but I don't know if we're close enough, let's just say a woman I know and think is supercool in every way: Trans, by Juliet Jacques. As I say, I've not actually read it yet, but I've read a lot of her journalism & litcrit and she is a *very* good writer.

emil.y, Friday, 5 February 2016 17:54 (four years ago) link

Oh, I guess seeing as the other two contributors to the thread have situated themselves: I'm in the UK, I hate corporeal reality so I identify more as a malfunctioning brain monad but if pushed I guess I'm a cis woman who really doesn't want to co-opt the v. real struggles of their friends by bringing their own gender & body issues up in trans spaces (even though I've just done that here, I guess it's some relevant background though). Pronouns I associate w/ tend to be she/her or they/them. Play in a band whose members are mostly queer in various ways, inc. trans, so it's quite important to us, have forged connections w/ bands in similar 'shouty queer feminist' positions, play events like Trans Pride, Queerfests etc.

emil.y, Friday, 5 February 2016 18:08 (four years ago) link

Yeah, she's awesome! I haven't read the book version of Trans, but I remember finding her Guardian essays to be insightful and useful when I was starting to move toward transition, and a lot of her short fiction is really promising.

one way street, Friday, 5 February 2016 18:11 (four years ago) link

Also, it's totally fine to talk about yr own relation to gender/embodiment/queer scene dynamics here without identifying as trans or speaking for trans people (I don't have any intention of doing the latter myself).

one way street, Friday, 5 February 2016 18:20 (four years ago) link

OWS, you're on point about Taylor Mac being experiential. I find myself justifying the Taylor experience to folks that don't know and video clips don't do it justice. It's the willingness to allow great humanistic art to happen in the moment when everyone, including the performer, is uncomfortable. I associate that frisson with punk and with drag performance... now that I think about it, the most comparable show in my memory would be Kiki and Herb.

Thanks for the heads up on Eden's Garden; I will check that out now!

ulysses, Friday, 5 February 2016 18:24 (four years ago) link

first ep of Eden's Garden was worth watching. the production values are hit and miss and the script is occasionally awkward but a lot of the acting is super solid and some of the directorial choices are strong. whole lotta fucking but it read honest. will watch more.

ulysses, Friday, 5 February 2016 18:40 (four years ago) link

I have no idea if this is the right thread for this or not, so apologies if this is an inappropriate use of the space. Sorry this is going to be a wall-o-text, but my therapist is away this month. If you don't like wall-o-text you're not going to read a Branwell post anyway.

I finally got around to reading some Julia Serano (my local library got in Excluded, which I know is not her popular one, but it seems to be later than, and including important updates/amendments on Whipping Girl, and anyway, this is the one that came to me.) And I have FEELINGS! Like, to the point where I actually started scribbling in the margins (in pencil) because I wanted to argue some points with her.

Ironically, my process and emotional reactions to reading her book reminded me strongly and oddly, of my experiences reading the work of people like Andrea Dworkin, Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel. In that sense of understanding and agreeing really strongly, right up to a point where their logic swerves off yours with a giant "NOPE!" that is so salient to the point under discussion that that huge "NOPE!" colours and distorts further reading even of the stuff where you agree. It's just that the swerving roadblock is in a different place. Obviously, with the feminists mentioned above, the roadblock is the biological essentialism leading to transphobia. With Serano, the roadblock is a repeated massive blind spot with regards to the experiences of trans men and genderqueer people.

Serano is a couple of years older than me, but we are approximately the same generation. We've lived through a lot of the same wars. Some of her story comes off as "I moved to San Francisco and feminist cis lesbians weren't very nice to me!" and girl, I get that - Ladyfest style feminism wasn't very nice to me, either. But there are these logicFAILs that she seems to blind to, that she swerves into what looks a lot like hypocrisy.

In one essay, she starts going on about the "special social stigma" that trans women face. OK, I agree, that there is a unique intersection of sexism and transphobia that creates the phenomenon (I don't know if she coined it or not) that is called transmisogyny. But then, after asserting that she can't stand what she calls "Oppression Olympics", she seems to try to make a case that trans women are more specially more oppressed than trans men. Um. Her evidence for this? 1) Trans men are more accepted and even fetishised within lesbian communities because lesbians are mean and hate a) femmes and b) cocks (I'm not quite clear here?) 2) Trans men are generally invisible in mainstream culture, and ignored by the media because masculinity is so inherently prized that OF COURSE! if given a choice between being wonderful masculine men and shitty feminine girls, who wouldn't be a man? So this erasure means trans men are LESS oppressed because invisibility is GOOD.

Reaction to point 1. I understand that Serano is a scientist, and therefore really should know better than the category error she is making here. If she wants to make a (totally not Oppression Olympics, honest!) point here, about acceptance and gender, shouldn't she be comparing the acceptance of queer/lesbian trans women within the lesbian community NOT to the acceptance levels of (straight) trans men within the lesbian community, but to the acceptance levels of (gay) trans men within the gay community? I think she would get a VERY different view of how ~rosy~ and uncomplicated and spiffy the path that trans men walk is, if she compared apples to apples, not apples to oranges. (Or perhaps she could have compared the "mysterious" cultural symbiosis of lesbians and butches to the presence of drag queens within traditional gay culture, if she'd rather compare oranges to oranges?)

She's very very good, when she says, "Look for who doesn't get called out" on other issues, for highlighting the double standards applied to trans women. Powerful arguments, and a good technique. But you know who she never, ever calls out for transphobia? Cis gay men. (To the contrary, she talks about how great her experiences with cis hetero men have been, especially on dating sites! Apparently! Cis men, in her experience, are so blameless and unproblematic, in comparison to her experiences with those mean lesbians. Who knew.) Maybe she could talk to some gay trans men about their experiences in gay male space before she declares trans men and people on the "FTM spectrum" have such an easy ride in queersville - let alone in the wider world.

Reaction to point 2. In the chapters on bisexuality, she makes such brilliant and incisive points about the negative and harmful consequences of erasure and invisibility that I find it actually SHOCKING how she appears to posit that invisibility means trans men are somehow *less* oppressed, rather than just *differently* oppressed than trans women. This was one of those blind spots so glaring that it undermined my confidence in the rest of her arguments, even the good ones. One trans man is referenced by name in her book. But several trans women. There's a lot of "a couple of (nameless) trans men have said..." and "I've observed trans men being treated like..." - but that's hearsay, your honour, not evidence.

Her thinking on genderqueer and non-binary people is patchy. This is when I start to draw conceptual conclusions about whether people use "Trans" or "Trans*" as the umbrella term. Whenever people use the nickname for part of a heterogeneous group as shorthand for the whole, that always gets my back up. People say "Trans is short for transgender, which means the whole group"; but the most common use of "trans" is "trans man" or "trans woman" - the binary identities - and I'm guessing if you ask a non-insider what "trans" means, they are far more likely to come back with a meaning that fits "transexual" than they are to come back with "genderqueer" or "agender" or any of the non-binary identities. That kind of sore point is why we started to use "LGBTQIA" and so on, instead of just "The Gay Movement" to describe the whole community.

Again, she is really, really good, in the chapters on bisexuality, and on the chapters on double standards, in explaining how, when you have a marked group (e.g. homosexual) and an unmarked group (heterosexual) that create a binary, people who exist outside that binary will get it in the neck from both sides, and experience a form of marginalisation from both sides, which compounds, rather than simplifies the issues that they experience. She GETS it on bisexuality. But this idea that "trans" with its opposition "cis" is creating another binary, and there are always going to be people outside that binary? I know the simple act of adding a wildcard is a symbolic gesture at best. But it's some small attempt at saying "there's a spectrum out here" rather than "boom, another binary for me to be outside."

There is this running distrust of genderqueer people that just seems to permeate through the book. The idea that some people could be as drawn - instinctually, or complicatedly - to androgyny as she is to femme seems to be beyond her. She even goes so far as to declare some people only "intellectually genderqueer" (while, the whole time, trying to argue *against* the policing of other people's genders and identities?) in the same way that "political lesbianism" was, briefly a thing in the 70s. That just really got my back up, like, OK, *her* bisexual tomboy-femme trans woman identity is a genuine and true legitimate expression of your gender, but *those* genderqueer individuals, that's just their ~intellectual pose~, like *lady*, do you ever actually stop and listen to yourself? Who made you the judge of what people's gender identity history is, or isn't? With my chequered history, I'm sure I will never be "trans enough" for my genderqueer identity to seem legit to her.

There are times where I have to wonder if she's hopelessly naive or if she's deliberately straw-manning - she seems to honestly believe that it would be "totally unacceptable" for a cis woman to gender-police another cis woman's femininity. Are. You. Kidding. Me. Really? The straw-manning of (purposely?) twisting "gender is performative" into "all gender is performance" and "gender is socially constructed" into "gender is just a construct" are particularly ... I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that maybe she is reporting phrases she has heard twisted (and dumbed down) in the wild. But that dinged. She also buys wholesale into the "cotton ceiling" idea which... I have already explained elsewhere in depth how gross and entitled that is. It is Rape Culture in lipstick. Not to mention, the mystery of why "lesbians exclusively go for pussy" is transphobic but "gay men devote entire cultures to cock worship" is somehow *not* transphobic is, again, one of those "look for the things that do NOT get called out" flags for me. Men get to have fixed sexual orientations of what they are or not interested in; however women must consider the attentions of whoever is attracted to them, regardless of their preferences in the matter or even basic sexual orientation. Isn't that one of those double standards she keeps railing against?

I really liked her "holistic view of gender"; it agrees with what the science shows. I thought that her descriptions of how Double Standards worked was really clear and incisive. But the idea that all systems of oppression can just be broken down into "double standards", I find face-palmingly simplistic, in that it tries to describes systemic problems without ever once addressing the problem of Power. Her thinking on this is simply wrong - she makes assertions like "Isms produce Privilege" and her example is how racism caused white privilege - that just isn't true. Race 101: Racism was invented to justify and support Slavery. The Privilege preceded the Ism, the Ism is a post-hoc justification for the power. If you think you can detach power from oppression, and just demolish each "double standard" to destroy the system, you are going to be playing an endless game of whack-a-mole as you whack down symptoms without ever treating the cause.

Möbius the Stripper (Branwell with an N), Wednesday, 17 February 2016 17:46 (four years ago) link

The idea that some people could be as drawn - instinctually, or complicatedly - to androgyny as she is to femme seems to be beyond her.

That's really ironic because when I knew her (back when she was Tom and in a mediocre power pop band), her style was very much indie androgyny. If it weren't for the pattern that you wrote about of simplistic binaries, I would wonder if her aversion is a push-back to that personal experience.

Also the thing about "femmes"? I kinda doubt that is true ... "kinda" because I'm not actually of the SF Bay queer community ... but based on certain experiences of mine and others.

sarahell, Wednesday, 17 February 2016 19:14 (four years ago) link

Tbh, I agree that Serano's focus on "double standards" doesn't really help in any systematic way with thinking about how to resist or dismantle hierarchical power. My other main problem with Serano's work (though I find her articulation of transmisogyny in "Whipping Girl" extremely useful as something to build on) is that she doesn't think through intersections of class and race extensively enough, which is especially a problem when so much of the violence directed toward trans people (at least in N. America) is borne by sex workers and women of color. 

I haven't read all of Excluded, so I can't respond to yr other objections at length. Looking at the "intellectually genderqueer" passage in context, I understand why she's pushing back against the particular stigma attached to trans people who do medically transition, or want to access healthcare, but l agree that the way she does winds up being needlessly pejorative and policing toward people who don't transition in the conventional sense. Cissexism in gay male scenes does exist, but I think you're right that it tends to be talked about more often by queer trans men (Riley MacLeod and Rae Spoon [when Rae writes about the period when they identified as a man] come to mind). I think the limitations of Serano's arguments maybe suggests the importance of situating those arguments carefully in yr own concrete experience. What I personally found important in "Whipping Girl," when I was starting to come out as a trans woman, were her analyses of transmisogyny and stigma against femininity, but clearly other voices need to be heard. On a related note (since we're digressing from the thread topic), I think this piece by Melissa Gira Grant on the transphobic US "bathroom bills" gets at some of the political ambiguities of "visibility" in a useful way:

Sarahell, I don't think you meant anything by it, but you should keep in mind that it can be uncomfortable when cis ppl bring up trans people's old names if it's not strictly necessary.
(I'm luckier than most, probably, in that I generally don't have to deal with my old name outside bureaucratic contexts and talking to my dad, but for a lot of us this can be really fraught.)

There's more I'd want to respond to in Branwell's post, but I just heard over Facebook about the death of a trans woman who was a friend of a friend, and I'm feeling pretty fucked up about it, so I think I need to go offline for the night.

one way street, Thursday, 18 February 2016 04:55 (four years ago) link

I am so sorry for your loss, OWS. Completely understand. Take care of yourself!

Möbius the Stripper (Branwell with an N), Thursday, 18 February 2016 07:19 (four years ago) link

Echo what Branwell said!

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 18 February 2016 09:02 (four years ago) link

Thanks, you two. I'll be all right--there's just so much death in this community (on a broad scale, at least; the community in my town is pretty small) and sometimes it feels overwhelming. I've been kind of depressed lately for various reasons, but also trying to be supportive toward some friends who've been dealing with more severe problems, and it's just difficult at times to keep things in balance, though not dangerously so. (I do want to get back to talking about trans art in this thread soon; I've been getting interested in Jamie Berrout's poetry and fiction, but I'd want to spend more time with her Incomplete Stories and Essaysbefore I talk about it here.)

one way street, Thursday, 18 February 2016 21:01 (four years ago) link

I'm just wondering what the most respectful way to talk about someone before they transitioned/publicly decided that they were going to assume a different name? In terms of talking about them in the 3rd person. It seems odd to me to refer to Julia as always having been Julia, when Julia was Tom for approx. 30 years prior. My friend Eliot is a transman, and he celebrates 2 birthdays - one for when he was physically born, and one for when he became Eliot.

sarahell, Thursday, 18 February 2016 21:18 (four years ago) link

n.b. I didn't know Eliot before he was Eliot, though I have a couple of other trans friends whom I knew when they identified as their former gender.

sarahell, Thursday, 18 February 2016 21:19 (four years ago) link

I would probably ask them their preference if you know them personally; otherwise, I'd just use their chosen name to talk about them before they transitioned. There's no single right way for other trans people to relate to their lives before transition, but I try to err on the side of affirming who they are now.

one way street, Thursday, 18 February 2016 21:25 (four years ago) link

In the case of someone we don't have a personal relationship with who isn't part of the conversation or will even read the thread.

It just seems awkward to me to do so when you want to discuss their prior identity or some aspect of their self-presentation in relation to their work -- which is why I brought up the Tom thing.

sarahell, Thursday, 18 February 2016 21:34 (four years ago) link

as an outsider looking in, my fallback has been to refer to trans people with the pronoun that matches how they identified at the time... i.e. "she had a rough high school life but he really blossomed in college"

the truer rule i aim to keep is don't be an asshole and just let folks guide you toward what they personally want.

absolutely no shots fired or shade thrown at you here sarahell but the mainstream egocentric obsession with gender neutral pronouns as the sine qua non of trans rights issues belies a lack of willingness to address (as ows alluded to) the larger uglier realities that too often pervade the lives of trans folk: poverty, suicide, abuse, mental health issues... basically everything that comes from a day to day existence where institutionalized prejudice, potential violence and off the cuff rejection can come baked in. in the face of that, the political theater around WHAT BATHROOM WILL THEY USE is fucking sad and i don't want to overly contribute to that sort of reductive handwringing on either side of the aisle

ulysses, Thursday, 18 February 2016 21:41 (four years ago) link

hey emily if you're reading this thread (or anyone else who can answer the question): can you talk more about how the twine / IF scene intersects here?

Also, it's prob a bit basic to bring up here but holy fuck the film Tangerine is great and both the leads are amazing actors.
Streaming in the US if you haven't had a chance yet:

ulysses, Thursday, 18 February 2016 21:54 (four years ago) link

So this is gonna be a space for cis ppl to ~perform caring about trans-non-binary-gender-etc issues~ by shouting at one another about pronouns, rather than actually critiquing, discussing, or otherwise addressing the themes that trans people raise in their art. Right-i-oh, then.

Möbius the Stripper (Branwell with an N), Friday, 19 February 2016 09:24 (four years ago) link

Found Objects of Desire was a DIY/folk/punk group led by Arianna in Atlanta ~10 years ago. she's since moved to AZ and is making some louder noise now but i have always loved this anti-folk stuff. there's a really cool video to go along w this - the album it is from is called "Altamaha", based on one of the most important rivers in Georgia - featuring a lot of wildlife footage from the coast.

AdamVania (Adam Bruneau), Friday, 19 February 2016 15:12 (four years ago) link

ulysses, emil.y is definitely better informed than I am about IF, but the merritt kopas essay I linked to in the first post touches on the Twine scene (short answer, which I can expand on if necessary: in the last several years, and especially between 2012 and 2014 or so, there's been a critical mass of games made with the hypertext programming tool Twine by trans women such as Anna Anthropy, Porpentine, Lydia Neon, and others, often dealing with trans experiences with a nuance and imaginative freedom unusual in game design), and merritt's anthology Videogames for Humans represents that community of writers and designers more extensively.

Sarahell, I hope I wasn't harsh in responding to you; tbh, my own insecurities were at play there, and I'm sorry for putting you on the spot.

Adam, I'm not familiar with Arianna/Found Object, so thanks for the link; her sound has kind of an appealingly loose, patchwork quality.

Branwell, ILX threads often proceed by tangents, and the dormancy of the other trans/nb thread maybe puts an awkward kind of pressure on the conversations here, but I would absolutely like you to feel more welcome here.

one way street, Saturday, 20 February 2016 02:48 (four years ago) link

Also, Branwell, in case you'd be interested, the last couple of days' tweets by Morgan M. Page (@morganmpage) and Stephen Ira (@supermattachine) on tensions between trans femme and trans masc culture online and cissexism toward gay trans men seem relevant to yr thoughts on Serano.

one way street, Saturday, 20 February 2016 03:09 (four years ago) link

Checking out that essay, thanks.

i believe that (s)he is sincere (forksclovetofu), Saturday, 20 February 2016 07:35 (four years ago) link

two months pass...

Thought to put this here.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 27 April 2016 11:48 (four years ago) link

Thanks, xyzzzz___! I'll take some time to think about Rose's essay.

To list a couple of other recent publications that are also relevant here, the trans poetry journal Vetch has released their second issue (free here), and Jamie Berrout and Ellyn Page have published An Anthology of Fiction by Trans Women of Color, which I want to get around to reading very soon (related blog at; available at

one way street, Wednesday, 27 April 2016 12:43 (four years ago) link

They Themselves and Schmerm was great btw, Becca Blackwell is awesome

ulysses, Wednesday, 27 April 2016 14:41 (four years ago) link

Also for those near Cambridge Mass, "A Ride on the Irish Cream" is playing in their upcoming season, along with a January play called "Trans Scripts Part 1: The Women" by Paul Lucas, directed by Jo Bonney.

ulysses, Wednesday, 27 April 2016 15:11 (four years ago) link

*corrections: the editors of the twoc anthology are Jamie Berrout (herself a significant and challenging writer) and Ellyn Peña, and a working hyperlink to their tumblr is

one way street, Wednesday, 27 April 2016 15:58 (four years ago) link

A few scattered comments about that Rose essay: I'm not that interested in trans people's etiology, or at least it seems like questions of etiology are at best a distraction from questions of social acceptance and access to resources (work, housing, healthcare, etc.), but I don't really share Rose's investment in psychoanalysis. While I respect Rose's contributions to feminist thought, it would be nice if the LRB actually published trans and nb critics beyond Stephen Burt (Juliet Jacques has written a few blog posts, but I think that's all), although this is probably also a function of the LRB relying on a fairly narrow circle of contributors. The identification of Janice Raymond as the first TERF is a little inaccurate, given that her polemics codified and intensified rhetoric already used by, say, Robin Morgan and Mary Daly; Susan Stryker's Transgender History provides useful context here. I agree with Rose that trans life writing (especially under the sign of the Transition Narrative) tends to be constricted by the writer's need to secure recognition of their gender, but it would have been worth attending to more literature (such as Sybil Lamb's work, or Imogen Binnie's) that actively pushes back against such expectations. On the whole, though, I thought this was an useful overview for readers unfamiliar with the texts discussed, and I appreciate that Rose didn't try to resolve the tensions or disagreements in a body of texts that is very far from being monolithic. I'm curious what other people of this thread thought about the essay.

one way street, Thursday, 28 April 2016 15:49 (four years ago) link

I also want to mention Torrey Peters's interview in Essay Daily a few months ago on trans writing and the essay-form, because it seems relevant here:

My first attempt at trans writing was an essay published by Gawker, and in it, I elided my own sexuality, down-played how important my own womanhood is to me for a kind of fuzzy-friendly-gender-is-just-a-construct stance, and worse, I completely skipped the resolution between myself and my girlfriend over my crossdressing, because guess what? There wasn’t really a resolution. The actual narrative would have required me to be 100 times more honest, but I didn’t want to be honest, I wanted to be liked.

Everybody wants to be liked, of course, but for trans people the stakes to being liked are really high. If you are afraid to be seen as a pervert freak, afraid that you'll lose everything you value and might get killed, it chills your writing. For some white dude to be awful, he’s just another phallic narcissist, bravely saying how it is. No biggie, here's your Pulitzer. So it’s not a surprise to me that trans people, in memoir, sometimes throw out the honesty and ethics required for truly good narrative structure in favor of likability. We face so much higher political consequences for being honest.

Essay may incorporate narrative, but it can also function as almost description. You can have an emotional landscape, and often I find my experience of being trans best reflected in descriptive prose rather than through classic conflicts. So lyrics, essays, and essayistic experimentation often feel most accurate. However, there is not necessarily a loser in description the way there is in the resolution of conflict. There is no wife trapped in a marriage to a woman, no girlfriend who has to push down her discomfort with cross dressing—so writers are free to be honest, but the stakes are sometimes made lower for the lack of conflict. That said, my own personal goal these days is to strive for a future of narrative in trans writing that can hold itself to extremely high ethical consistency in the resolution of conflict. Because ultimately, other trans people will understand, and for the cis people that judge us? They’ll see the value in another generation, if they don’t get it now.

one way street, Thursday, 28 April 2016 16:23 (four years ago) link

Also, from the same essay:

There are a lot of people doing cool stuff in different formal realms that I’d call essay. I read a lot more work by trans women, because that’s whose work speaks to me. (Original Plumbing has a lit issue with trans dudes if people want to check that out) But for me, I’d want to list the games of Merritt Kopas or Anna Anthropy. Autostraddle actually has become a place for trans women to publish some weird essays with interesting formal conceits, like How To Write About Trans Woman by Gabrielle Bellot or a take-down of a take-down of Candy Magazine by L’lerrét Jazelle Ailith, which starts like a conventional bloggy response to a Salon article and unexpectedly becomes a list of black trans heroes. All of Imogen Binnie’s We See Through You columns in Maximum RocknRoll are great. Oh, and I’d say also The Seam of Skin and Scales by Elena Rose. Basically, because this is a conversation—the trans essay—that is still being carved out, I try to pay attention to the seemingly ephemeral stuff that gets passed around, from person to person, or technically from email account to email account. There’s nothing like a canon, so I just try to see what essays seem to move people in ways that haven’t faded. For instance, trans women I know have been talking about Elena’s essay since she performed it something like 2007. The way that writing gets passed around makes the creation of trans art a communal act.

one way street, Thursday, 28 April 2016 16:40 (four years ago) link

ows - Thanks for that essay.

As for the Rose essay I just found useful as an overview but yes there are problems as novels will not be written about at the LRB, and as sensitive as Rose is to all this she comes from that very narrow group of contributors. I would've loved if they got Roz Kavaney to write this up - but as the piece you've linked to says the literature is still being formed.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 29 April 2016 21:06 (four years ago) link

On the offchance that any other trans women read this thread and are cultivating writing projects, this writers' workshop in New York this August is worth knowing about:

one way street, Tuesday, 10 May 2016 20:49 (four years ago) link

three weeks pass...

For some reason I thought emil.y had posted more of the UK queerpunx stuff in this thread but I think I was getting muddled with some EOY threads on ILM; if it's not too gauche/trite to post some Aussie music stuff,

Two Steps on the Water's "YoYo":
(& previous EP Having pop punk feelings in a country​-​western body)

+ a good interview touching on the Melbourne GNC/trans*/non-binary scene:

etc, Tuesday, 31 May 2016 01:01 (three years ago) link

Thanks for the link, etc, esp. since I know extremely little about the Australian trans arts scene.

I found this twitter discussion of the current dynamics of trans writing (moderated by the poet Oliver Bendorf and the essayist Gabrielle Bellot) wide-ranging and useful, especially on questions of audience and the additional barriers faced by trans writers of color:

one way street, Thursday, 9 June 2016 17:49 (three years ago) link

four months pass...

Taylor Mac broke my goddamn mind and i need someplace to talk about it though perhaps ILX is the wrong spot?

the notes the loon doesn't play (ulysses), Tuesday, 11 October 2016 06:05 (three years ago) link

I'm seeing Elysia Crampton perform her "Dissolution of the Sovereign" piece this Sunday, will report back if I find myself able to say anything interesting about it.

To hop on board the (stalled?) introduction train upthread: I'm in Philadelphia, at the point where I'm going to seek a referral for a therapist to work through some gender issues but not 100% ready to commit to the idea of transition, kind of worried about everything all the time for various reasons, among them age (33, really REALLY regretting not taking the steps to do this earlier and still dealing with a lot of anxiety issues that are not even halfway solved) and a history of isolation (and also the sense that my presence- as an upper-middle-class white person with the relative luxury of not being forced to deal with anything and just quietly letting my life fall into disrepair for a decade+- is not only unnecessary but counterproductive).

You guys are caterpillar (Telephone thing), Wednesday, 12 October 2016 01:27 (three years ago) link

Respec knuckles at you Tt

the notes the loon doesn't play (ulysses), Wednesday, 12 October 2016 14:36 (three years ago) link

(Porpentine is the most important artist to me, if people want a guide / starting points to her stuff I'd be super happy to do that)

Gravel Puzzleworth, Wednesday, 12 October 2016 15:03 (three years ago) link

Yeah, congratulations on being willing to start working through those feelings in whatever form that takes, telephone thing! I didn't really start dealing with my own dysphoria directly until I was 30, so I can certainly relate to the strong feeling of belatedness, but it's never too late to reexamine your experience. I can webmail you my main email address if you ever want to talk about gender issues off-board (though having a supportive therapist and people you can trust to talk to about your feelings is really more important).

one way street, Wednesday, 12 October 2016 15:29 (three years ago) link

Also, I've checked out of this thread and most of ILX for a while now, but I would be interested in yr thoughts on Porpentine, Mac, and EC if any of you want to share them.

one way street, Wednesday, 12 October 2016 15:41 (three years ago) link

wish you wouldn't check out OWS, yer one of the good things about this place

the notes the loon doesn't play (ulysses), Wednesday, 12 October 2016 17:51 (three years ago) link

Thanks, ulysses. I'm not leaving the board in any decisive way, really: I've just been kind of depressed lately, so not in the mood to post here often, but it'll presumably pass.

one way street, Wednesday, 12 October 2016 18:18 (three years ago) link

It always does though it doesn't always feel that way.
explaining the Taylor Mac show is too big for me just now but i just heard this and it's good

the notes the loon doesn't play (ulysses), Thursday, 13 October 2016 02:46 (three years ago) link

also here's a review with Becca Blackwell, general rad person and writer/performer of 'They, Themselves and Schmerm' discussed above on NYT's Theater Page Facebook Live thing

the notes the loon doesn't play (ulysses), Thursday, 13 October 2016 04:42 (three years ago) link

Yeah, that's a great first single--the arrangement and Shea's vocal delivery both have the requisite heft. I was a little startled to see that my friend Meredith had a cameo near the end of the video, since I hadn't heard about it before today, but I guess I haven't talked to her in a while.

one way street, Thursday, 13 October 2016 21:34 (three years ago) link

two years pass...

Oh! I didn't know this thread existed. Well, 2016 was a bit of a year so I'm not surprised I missed it...

Calpico Girlfriend (rushomancy), Wednesday, 2 October 2019 12:46 (seven months ago) link

Dylan Greenberg, 22, a film director from Brooklyn, came onstage with her band, Theophobia. Ms. Greenberg, a trans woman, wore a leopard crop top and low-cut leather pants. She said that if she were presented the crown, she would melt it and smear it on her body... After a drawn-out deliberation from the judges, Ms. Greenberg was crowned Miss Subways 2019. Later, when Ms. Greenberg was asked about her agenda as the new Miss Subways, she said, “I’m going to release rabid wolves into the subway.”

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Tuesday, 8 October 2019 17:02 (seven months ago) link

I don't know if I've recommended it anywhere here but I really like "Songs I Hate" by Envelope Generator. Quality synthpop that also very much brings the trans realness.

Spironolactone T. Agnew (rushomancy), Wednesday, 16 October 2019 01:49 (seven months ago) link

two months pass...

Anybody watching "Work in Progress" on Showtime? I think it's great.
bonus points for casting on julia sweeney's husband

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Thursday, 26 December 2019 19:21 (five months ago) link

also watched Seahorse which was more of a thirty minute documentary than a ninety minute one; i could definitely have done without all the arty shots of starlings and tadpoles.
L. and I were really shocked the subject wasn't getting more therapy, especially when they explicitly say they could use it! Dunno how much of that is a question about what NHS provides; that too is out of my experience.
Frustratingly, the film doesn't provide a lot of reasons as to _why_ this guy wants to raise a child in his mother's house without a partner and I mostly felt "what are you doing here?" twentysomething energy toward them. But hey, they did the work!

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Thursday, 26 December 2019 19:27 (five months ago) link

thought this was gorgeously shot; lots of interesting discussion about naming and some big cultural differences on display

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Thursday, 2 January 2020 21:57 (four months ago) link

Portland's Victory Over the Sun is getting a fair amount of hype this year it seems. Definitely a quality record, definitely in my wheelhouse, all of the influence from the early Soviet avant-garde doesn't hurt either!

revenge of the jawn (rushomancy), Friday, 10 January 2020 02:23 (four months ago) link

two weeks pass...

hahaha not surprised none of y'all bit at that, i shouldn't be biting either

i mean, yeah. transgressive art. the thing that came to mind for me was ballard's "why i want to fuck ronald reagan".

i grew up in that sort of world where offending people was a goal, where the worst thing was being "inoffensive". nowadays, it's more a matter of who i'm hurting and how ok i am with that. i'm ok with hurting some people in some ways.

i don't know if i posted it here, but i wrote something on a similar issue. i think it's an _interesting_ topic. i posted a link to it somewhere in a trans discord, with appropriate CWs, and the feedback i got was that a lot of trans people would be... uncomfortable with that.

i felt that was honest feedback and good feedback. there's some shit that's hard for me to deal with in ways that don't hurt people who, i feel, just don't deserve to be hurt. there's no big huge Issue here, nothing to make big speeches about. even though i don't know, maybe i'm making one, maybe clark (whose conclusions, ultimately, i don't think i agree with) was making one.

there are a lot of things that don't have easy answers, can't be determined by any set of Principles. i have to take them on a case by case basis. i've met people who were out as trans before me, way before me. i couldn't be who i am if they weren't who they were. and they self-identify as a word that, to me, that's a slur. i'm not even going to use that word here, and if that makes what i'm talking about more vague, fine.

i was talking with someone yesterday, and they were talking about wanting to reclaim that word. they can want that. the person who has identified with that word for decades, they have the right, and nothing is going to erase the fundamental respect and admiration i have for them.

i'm also, i think, probably always going to be hurt by that word. i'm not interested in reclaiming it. there are some topics that, no matter how one talks about or explains it or Contextualizes it, talking about those things are going to hurt people. that's sort of a painful learning experience for anyone who has it.

revenge of the jawn (rushomancy), Tuesday, 28 January 2020 05:22 (three months ago) link

There was some discussion of it on the Literary Clusterfucks thread. I thought it was a really powerful story. I also think that literature is a really important and useful place to explore feelings of ambivalence (or even hatred) about yourself, and while for some people that is going to bring up really bad shit, for others it provides solace and connection. Oppositional/countercultural/marginalised lit has had a long tradition of ending in despair, and I think it's great that there has been a move to show more hopefulness, but I don't want to read your utopia, there's no place for me there. I'm looking for companionship in a world where things will only get worse.

Re: reclamation of terms, there are a lot of people who still feel that way about queer! It's such a positive term for me that I have to check myself not to use it before sussing out if people are comfortable with it.

emil.y, Tuesday, 28 January 2020 16:33 (three months ago) link

ah i totally missed the literary clusterfucks thread (took me a while to find it because i was looking for it on ILB and not ILE).

so i found time to read the story, not because i much wanted to, but because if i'm going to talk about it i should have some minimal knowledge of it. it was sort of what i thought. a lot of paranoia and self-doubt in there, a lot of talk about war which i kind of skimmed over, since it's not a topic i find interesting or a topic i can much relate to.

i'm not opposed to anybody who wants to reclaim any word or phrase. i'm not saying they can't or shouldn't prioritize that. i think "queer" is a wonderful word, perhaps the first word that meant something to me (it would pop up in some of the older children's books i read but i knew somehow, cultural osmosis, that it meant more than that). i also don't think that reclamation is as simple or straightforward as lenny bruce made it sound.

i also agree with you about the therapeutic power of literature. i've written a lot of dark shit. writing that stuff, going there, has been a key part of my journey. i wouldn't dream of publishing any of it, though, because it's pretty awful, because i got a lot of bullshit in my head and i try to be respectful about where and how i put that bullshit on other people.

i don't know ms. fall, i don't know what drives her, but i have found it easy to underestimate how much hurt delving into that liminal shit can cause to other people.

i smile a lot, i laugh a lot, and i don't tend talk about dark shit. partly because i sound like a teenage goth girl when i do, partly because i have the tendency to ruminate, partly because it is fucking terrifying to think of what i might be capable of, under certain circumstances.

so i don't have a utopia for you. the closest to utopia is me, where i live now, and it's a shitty goddamn utopia, that's for sure. but i don't have any dystopias for you either. i don't know shit about the future, and i'm not sure anybody else does either; i'm just trying to survive, have the best present i can, and help give the people i care about the opportunities i have.

revenge of the jawn (rushomancy), Tuesday, 28 January 2020 20:29 (three months ago) link

Oh, I meant the general you in 'your utopia', not you specifically! Sorry if that sounded dismissive of you.

emil.y, Tuesday, 28 January 2020 21:52 (three months ago) link

i figured as such, but i wanted to cover my bases. :) i know the school of literature you're talking about - "hey why don't we write more stories about space elevators" or whatever - and i don't find those utopias entirely convincing. i don't subscribe to the philosophy that says our problems are going to be solved by technology, whether that's space elevators or gcs.

you know my name, look up the number of the beast (rushomancy), Tuesday, 28 January 2020 23:03 (three months ago) link

On consideration I'm not sure I agree with the hypothesis. I don't think "soldier" is a gender. I mean I know the joke is that it stands for "Assigned Cop At Birth" but it's just a pun, it doesn't speak to some deeper truth.

See, I'm always a woman, but I'm not always a woman first. Whatever else you are, if you're a cop, you're a cop first.

you know my name, look up the number of the beast (rushomancy), Thursday, 30 January 2020 01:48 (three months ago) link

two months pass...

loved and highly recommend this show; it's a fun time:

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Friday, 3 April 2020 19:17 (one month ago) link

(streaming free on Saturday April 4 at 7pm EST)

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Friday, 3 April 2020 19:18 (one month ago) link

two weeks pass...

i don't really watch movies but this film "bit" out tomorrow sounds potentially interesting

Kate (rushomancy), Thursday, 23 April 2020 20:57 (one month ago) link

oh yah? the vampire comedy? I thought that was due out in June, presumably COVID timeshifted. will likely watch.

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Thursday, 23 April 2020 22:00 (one month ago) link

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