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They Fear Queer People Will Take Photos of Women in Restrooms; We Fear Homophobic People Will Fire Bullets at Us in Our Safe Spaces

Governor Pat McCrory and other fear-mongering assholes have pushed their fearful agenda of little girls and women not feeling safe with a transgender person in the restroom for several months now, with the contention that women and little children will have to fear some pervert taking a photographic shot of their private parts.

Well Pat — and all you fear mongering assholes out there — us queer folks in the LGBTQI community have to fear bullets penetrating our bodies at the safest space we consider available for us to be ourselves: gay and queer nightclubs.

Let’s cut all the bullshit once and for all and call things for what they are for once, shall we?  Anyone who says they don’t agree, don’t condone, or don’t see gay marriage or gay people or transgender people as doing the right thing, or sees queers as sinners, or sees them as someone not conforming to what is “naturally correct” or whatever the fuck else is claimed by some entity in the sky, can go fuck themselves.  It is bigotry if you feel like someone is lesser than you or deserves less protections and civil rights because you disagree with them.  And by disagree, I don’t mean disliking someone or their harmful choices; I’m talking about disagreeing with someone being gay or queer or trans as the same as disagreeing with the way someone was born.

For instance, do we disagree with people if they don’t have the same eye color as us, or the same finger lengths or body weight?  Do we disagree with someone’s choices and cast them as sinners and abject and broken and mentally ill because they wear different sized shoes than us or have different hair colors?  Do we disagree with someone based on their skin color?  If so, that is bigoted, racist, and toxic, and believe me when I say queer people have always felt unsafe around bigots, because you assholes judge us for choosing a lifestyle that you see as unfit — despite no one giving you a gavel as judge and juror — when really we are born this way.

This is why our safe haven has always been at gay clubs.

These places are our sanctuaries, our safe spaces where we can be seen, mirrored, and be ourselves without fear of being judged.  These are places away from homophobic and transphobic society.  These are places where even straight people come visit on occasion to have a better time than going to a straight club because wherever there are uninhibited people channeling their energy from their hearts with unbridled joy, embracing their individual queerness, fun is usually the end result.

Instead, we now have to question if going out to our safe spaces to dance and be free is actually safe, all because the perpetual lies are still being touted and spread by people everywhere in all facets of society.  From playgrounds where children play to workplaces in corporate settings, “that’s so gay” and other derogatory terms are still thrown around like candy.  The fact that we couldn’t even get married was a hot topic until last year, and our second class citizenry is still fresh in so many people’s psyches that coming out is still a necessary part of a queer person’s life journey.

We are so terrified of losing the respect and acceptance of loved ones that we often hide our true selves away from family and friends.  We are ashamed of being ourselves because society has made a living and habit out of shaming us out of who we are, to the point where closeted Republicans are caught with gay escorts or in cheating scandals, to the point where someone of Muslim faith had so much shame and self-hatred towards the fact that he was gay that he decided to project all that hostility towards the gay community itself.

Think about that for a minute.  You, as a global culture, are generally so opposed to the LGBTQI community, condemning it as so wrong and shameful that you were able to manifest such large amounts of vitriolic hate within this Orlando shooter that his homophobia drove him mad enough to slaughter the biggest trigger he had towards himself: 50people at a gay club.

It may come as a surprise to you heteronormative straight people, but us LGBTQI people have accumulated pieces of verbal, emotional, and mental hate throughout our lives, from the moment we knew we were different in kindergarten and grade school, from the moment we were bullied for being different, from the moment we saw just how much homophobia is slung around in this pathetic and outdated culture we call a society.

LGBTQI people, prior to coming out of the closet, hold the most amount of homophobia themselves, because that dagger is turned inwards towards our own soul, towards fueling our own self torment.  It isn’t until we have the courage to accept ourselves — through self awareness and hard work, and sadly, often times through enormous amounts of growth accumulated through pain — that we can then address the homophobia source in society, caused by, you guessed it, people like you.

So let’s not sit here and pretend it’s about ISIS or terrorism, because let’s face it: our culture permeates terror towards anyone who is different, and, last I checked, the LGBTQI community is clearly different from the vanilla heteronormative standards you want.

So don’t pretend you want to pray with us or understand what we go through.  Enough with that shit.  Work on yourself first and fix the uneducated so that we can actually embrace each other with compassion and connect through our continuous common humanity without the need of a tragedy like the shooting in Orlando as a reason to bring us together.

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Equal Attention Discrimination

donald_sterlingAs soon as TMZ released the alleged tape Donald Sterling’s racist remarks towards his girlfriend V. Stiviano for posting pictures of herself hanging out with Magic Johnson on Instagram, the African American community immediately issued statements requesting Sterling be removed as the Los Angeles Clippers owner. All of this coming at a very bad time during a playoff battle against the Golden State Warriors en route to a possible NBA championship run for the Larry O’Brien trophy that now, very few people want to see the players on the Clippers earn for Sterling to hoist.

First I must say the African American community has always responded quickly to ignorant, divisive, and racist remarks towards these types of social issues. They are incredibly cohesive, organized, and collaborate so well. When Trayvon Martin was shot to Rodney King, and even towards the reactions of OJ Simpson and the jury’s verdict, the African American community always reacts fast and shares their opinions on sensitive social issues regarding other high profile African Americans or affiliates.

But the teamwork and cultural awareness didn’t happen overnight. People paid in blood sweat and tears for centuries as dignity was hard won and fought for before others were able to arrive at equal treatment, to eat at the same table at restaurants and attend the same schools.

Even now there still remains ignorance and hidden discrimination amongst the American population. But at least backlash is immediately imminent when people voice their discriminatory views.

Yet, if this were a transgender situation with the same backstory except the one minor difference of substituting a famous transgender woman in place of Magic Johnson, I assure you the results would have been quite different: muted, ignored, and dismissed.

I could have guaranteed there would have been very little comparative public outcry.

Why is that?

Is it because people erroneously assume w are making a sinful choice when we present our true selves in a gender non-conforming way? Is it because we are fragmented as a community? Is my friend Callan correct in saying our disconnect as a community is because we lack allies? Because we are so busy pinpointing who we aren’t instead of focusing on who we are, finding out actual presentation and identities?

I think it’s a combination of all of these factors, and the fragmentation really hurts us as a community. In addition to having no default group of individual to represent us, we have so many in the community who play crabs in the barrel with one another. Forget the fact that drag queens, transvestites, crossdressers, and transsexuals pick on each other and segregate themselves. Transsexuals are very ticky tack amongst themselves. It’s very common to hear comments as “That’s not her real hair” or “She isn’t fulltime, what does she know” in sneering and condescending attitudes.

And finding a group or individual to represent transgender people is very difficult, if not impossible, due to how fluid the nature of gender really is and the many ways on the continuum in which we can authentically choose to express ourselves.

So what are some steps we can take to increase acceptance and inclusion within our own community? I think it is very important to stand up for other transgender people. But in order for us to do that successfully we must first learn to stand up for ourselves and embrace our own individual differences. If I can’t accept, love, and stand up for myself, then I certainly can’t do it effectively for others in my community.

We must also show inclusion for those who fall on different parts of the gender spectrum; empathy for those who face ostracism from family upon coming out; and patience for those who are at a different stage of transition than we are.

We must embrace our queerness, and reject the binaries and judgments associated with being different and, rather, see ourselves as who we truly are: unique.

We must start forming alliances of allies where, through our cohesion of loving self and other transgender people, we then start being heard.

And then, and only then, will we hold enough clout and attention for respect when discriminated against in a similar situation by the Donald Sterlings out there.

Akai Swim School

akai_logo_smIn 1985, I attended Akai Swim School with my brother. It was that summer when I learned how to swim, learned how to change my breath and keep a sustained stroke, and also the same summer where I now wish, in retrospect, I could take some of my actions back.

The first one being that I made fun of my brother for beating him to the punch in learning how to swim first, despite being 2.5 years younger than him. He quickly followed suit and also learned how to swim.

So naturally, on weekends, we would beg our parents to take us to the pool.

On the last weekend of our summer membership, a kid named “Go” was there. All the kids made fun him, including my brother, and I felt the peer pressure as I joined in with the teasing. All the older boys picked him up and threw him in the pool repeatedly, and bullied him all under the premise of making fun of his name.

Although I secretly thought he was cute, I was almost “relieved” in a sense to see that some other poor little boy was being bullied for once instead of me. But during the rare moments when he was left alone, I approached him and we talked. He seemed very nice, and didn’t comprehend my two-faced behavior.

A sign of betrayal and confusion washed over his face as I would befriend him one minute and retreat back with the crowd of boys in the next, all in order to avoid being ostracized myself.

To this day, I still feel terrible about that, and I wonder if things would have been drastically different if I had already come out to my family and was living as a girl. I envision I would have defended him, and stood by him because I would have had firsthand knowledge of standing up for who I was and being authentic, and the whole social dynamic would have been different.

Perhaps, with the wisdom of transition having begun in my life, I would have more likely chosen to connect with my heart instead of connecting with the judgmental voice which didn’t think I was worthy of being present; the same voice that didn’t think I was worthy of befriending a boy; and instead of connecting with the bullying voice of fitting in, of fear, of harassing the boy, I would have instead embraced what I really wanted to do: make a friend and not care what others thought about my authentic intentions.

But I can’t do anything about it now. And I often wonder what happened to Go.

************************

Fast forward to Summer of of 2014.

I signed up for a month long membership at Akai Swim School to rehab my hip. Very little has changed physically at the facility, but I’m drastically different as I enter the grounds. Not only has 29 years passed, but I’m also undeniably stepping foot at Akai physically presenting as a woman in a bathing suit. I’ve freed the real self inside me for the world to see. I freed Natalie, the same hidden girl and spirit that wanted to free Go from being bullied. The empathy I felt for Go was the same empathy I felt for myself, but I was too scared to help him, just as I was too scared to help free myself from living in the wrong gender.

As I was mulling over the parallels, my head was spinning from the fact that I was standing there at Akai as my true self. While lost in my pondering, the woman from the front desk who had let me in walked by me as I entered the pool.

The water was just as warm as I had remembered it from 30 years ago. But the next thing that happened warmed my heart.

“Nice swimsuit Natalie,” the lady said. “The skirt is adorable! Where did you get your swimsuit?”

“Thanks,” I said. “I got it online. I can give you the website if you want.”

“Sure,” she said.

I wandered deeper into the water, in a daze.

I wish I could have shared that moment with Go.

If Your Uncle Jack was Stuck on a Horse, Would You Help Your Uncle Jack Off?

My uncle visited my mother’s house the other week on his way to LAX. His goal was to bring some vitamins and clothes back to China for my dad, but he didn’t expect to see me there.

uncle jack

Uncle Jack

Although he knew about my transition since 2011 when I had informed the entire family about my fulltime status of living as a woman, he had never seen me in person……and I knew it was going to be very difficult for him, to say the least.

From the moment he walked in, he kept looking down or away, never making eye contact. He briefly waved at me and said hi, and quickly resumed packing and rustling through all his baggage. He was flustered and had “ADD” the whole time, and kept shifting conversation topics towards Taiwan politics or other issues my mom felt passionate about so that she would chime in and help him avoid being stuck talking only to me.

I was a bit disappointed that he never really acknowledged me or listened to what I had to say the entire time he was there. I wanted to pout, and politely and firmly finish what I was saying before I was interrupted in mid-sentence each time, but I let it go. I recalled my newfound receptivity and feminine tactics and social graces, and I further reminded myself that I could learn from the experience and do better next time. The goal, I realized, wasn’t to fix the situation and penetrate further with insistent conversation, but rather, to let him take it all in, the new me, the regendering of me of which he needed time to process.

I was proud of my response, as I could see the recent growth I was owning.

But after he left, my mom said with a smile: “He found you attractive, and didn’t know how to react!”

I agreed with my mom and we both shared a laugh.

My uncle certainly had his way with attractive, tall, well-dressed and sexy Chinese women in the past, and the thought had crossed my mind while he was there that my looks played a big part in his discomfort.

But I didn’t fully believe in it. Part of me resisted acknowledging to myself that I could possibly be in the same category as his ex-girlfriends. After all, they were all cisgender women, ready to settle down and start a family with him, and the only thing that stopped that from happening was my uncle not being ready at the time, still womanizing and playing the field.

So was it possible? Could I have really measured up to those other women? Did I dare compare myself to other attractive cisgender women? Could I transcend all the shit and stigma and shame from being trans, and just see myself for who I was, just another woman who was worthy of being seen as beautiful, inside and out?

It was troubling to me that I had so much difficulty accepting that I was seen as attractive. I just didn’t have what it took that day to fully believe in myself, and my shortchanging of self was very disconcerting.

As a woman, feeling attractive oscillates: some days come easy, some days are just brutal. I have had countless days where I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum: going to work where I felt like a million dollars, and my energy radiated out to compel other coworkers to compliment me, contrasted with the days where I felt hideous and my nervous energy drew negative attention towards me before I even gave myself a chance to breathe and start the day. But what bothered me this time was that I chalked it all to being a transgender woman, and my internalized transphobia got the better of me before I even started my interaction with my uncle.

It was one of those moments where I didn’t trust in my feminine heart, and paid the price of missing what was right in front of me: the beauty and awesome feeling of being seen as a pretty woman and being appreciated for it. And nothing more.

My initial reaction after he left, was that I wanted to power through the uneasy feelings with my old outdated methods with brute force and avoidance, being more adamant, fighting my way through without even considering surrender and serenity.

How quickly was it that I completely forgot about all the times I’ve turned heads and gotten compliments from all sorts of women in public, and the amazing question of “are you a model from the USA?” asked of me when I was in Shanghai just last December.

It was these types of scenarios that clearly reminded me that I had the power to choose what aspect of each scenario I wanted to focus on, and how I could let the lessons and blessings from my Mother In The Sky increase the size of my vault of wisdom.

It reminded me of the fact that surrendering to the situation was where my true power was; that I couldn’t speed up the regendering process he was going through; that my uncle needed time to examine the new me, and that he had to relinquish the old image he had of me that was associated with all the precious times he shared with me during my childhood; that it was a great moment for me to show him compassion and patience as he regendered me in his head; that he needed the time to see me flow and interact as a woman to provide him new context in which to see me.

And most fun of all amongst all the craziness, was that he was flustered because he found me attractive.

That was definitely worth the price of admission!

Stifled Life

stifledI had the privilege of receiving a call from Garrett last night, and working through a few things on the phone. Specifically, issues regarding my ability to “find my passion” and purpose in life.

I told him about an ESPN story with Penny Hardaway going to a middle school in Memphis to help out his childhood friend who got cancer and could no longer coach the boys basketball team. After Penny took over the coaching duties, his friend still pushed himself physically to the limit to be present courtside, when possible, despite doctors warning him to rest.

The interviewer asked him: “Why do you insist on being courtside, when doctors have ordered you to rest, when it takes so much out of you?” Penny’s friend answered: “Because it also gives so much to me too,” implying that being there was keeping him alive.

I then proceeded to tell Garrett that I needed to “find” my calling, something to devote myself to, something to serve. He told me I had it all backwards. That I didn’t “need” anything. That living my life was all I “needed” to do. To live my life with passion, to make everything in my life important, and the purpose or service would naturally reveal itself.

“You’ve lived stifled and subdued for so long,” he said. “Everything you approached was done with a lack of passion. You never fully committed to anything because you were always waiting for the next best thing, always having one foot already out the door, in case something “better” came along. That’s why you never “found your passion.” That’s why you struggled so much with deciphering if your activities were passions or addictions.”

He then explained how one does not “find their passion.” Rather, people live life with passion and the hobby or thing they enjoy doing naturally reveals itself.

“Start brushing your teeth with passion. Inject passion into everything you do. Live like a terminal cancer patient, with passion for going to the toilet or waiting for a daily afternoon visitor. Fill your life with passion and live it with passion and something naturally will reveal itself in due time.”

Just like Penny’s friend choosing to make the middle school basketball team a priority of importance, I need to value, cherish, and take care of what is already in my life and what comes into it. And to do it with passion.

I need to stop looking for activities and events that illicit blips in the radar for me, because those temporary emotional states where I feel passion are external. It’s time to start bringing passion into a once stifled life, and see what my passion from within brings forth to my future.

I need to light the pilot in my heater in order to heat the house. I need to light up my soul and spread this new enthusiasm and spark towards everything I do in my life, especially what I consider the mundane.

I must say though, it was depressing realizing I chose, by conscious or subconscious reasoning, to live a subdued and stifled life. Many of those causes were because I am transgender, and my transgender history was filled with denied opportunities and dismissal.

But the encouraging news is that now I can choose again.

And this time it’ll be different.

Second Set of Balls

I was talking with TBB a few weeks ago, and we were discussing tome transgender topics that took courage and thick skin to endure.balls_of_steel

“I had to grow a second set of balls,” she said.

I couldn’t stop laughing when she said that.

Although I don’t plan on having GRS in the foreseeable future, I couldn’t help but marvel at the strength and courage us transgender people go through (surgery or no surgery), in order to live our daily lives.

Some of us are clocked visually every day, and need to have enormous resilience and strength to endure the baggage of other people thrown upon us, due to our very presence triggering their own shit that they refuse to deal with and blame us for causing them to feel.

Some of us have families and spouses prior to our transition that come along inevitably for the educational and difficult ride.

Most of us have to face the hassle of legal document changes and coming out to work and old bosses for professional references.

And further yet, some of us are assaulted or killed when we are out shopping for food or on a date.

So yes, despite TBB “losing” her balls due to GRS, she absolutely hit home with the statement: “When I grew my second set of balls…”

Kudos to all the transgender people out there who have the courage and stamina to face the world as their true selves every day.

Yes, it does take balls of steel, sometimes even a second pair are needed.

Not Enough

sad-womenThis society thrives on taking advantage of our feelings of inadequacy. Billion dollar industries are based off of our insecurities, drawing consumerism predicated on our fragments of low self esteem.

Women are constantly subjected to scrutiny from peers and members of the opposite sex. A woman with low self esteem or features that society considers not classically beautiful have a much harder time talking themselves out of a speeding ticket and taking advantage of biased perks.

The feelings of being shunned compound this fictitious belief of feeling we are not good enough, that we are somehow deficient or broken.

I think the closest feeling cisgender women can experience with regards to understanding what almost all MtF transwoman experience when they don’t pass, is when cisgender women don’t feel pretty.

Each time a transgender person is clocked or harassed for not “passing,” the feelings generated are similar to what a cisgender woman feels when rejected by a date or some other social situation for not being “pretty” enough. Often times, a transgender individual who struggles fitting in to the current socially accepted construct of what a woman ought to look like suffers on a monumental scale and far more often than a cisgender woman who is cast out as unattractive.

Somehow, we have distorted our values throughout generations of cultural misgivings and wound up classifying what is considered attractive and what is socially considered as beautiful in very limiting ways.

Despite there being some biological underpinnings being hardwired in our genetic makeup to predispose us to find certain curves and body parts an attractive trait, nevertheless, predispositions are not predeterminations…meaning, our phenotype results from the way we classify our personal preferences as to what is considered pretty, and is very much influenced by our genes and the way they interact with our social environment.

It is clear overweight women were highly sought after in both ancient Greece and China due to body types being an indicator of family wealth and abundance of food. Foot binding in China was considered an attractive custom for women for centuries. Now airbrushed coat-hanger thin type girls on the cover of Victoria Secret catalogs are the standard of western beauty.

So when did women start not being good enough the way they are? When did big breasts, flawless fuchsia manicures, dangly jewelry and airbrushed looking skin become the standard for femininity and defining feminine beauty?

I was (shamefully) browsing Craigslist late at night in the M4T section. This 35 year old from Chino Hills put up a disturbing listing. In it, he made it very clear as to what made him stand out as a great catch in comparison to his counterparts:

 

“I am not ashamed to be seen with you in public. When people eventually see us together and recognize you are transgender, I will stand by your side. I’m not afraid to being seen with you in public. In fact (yes, there was more to his diatribe), I love taking my trans girlfriend out to restaurants and movies.

 

But my girl must have the following (bullet points ensued):

  • She must have manicured nails (both hands and feet)
  • She mus be pre-op TS and not want surgery at all…if there is any doubt at all about SRS it’s best we don’t start a relationship.
  • She must smell like a girl and act like one
  • She must have long hair”

 

I was just thinking how this would have gone over on a cisgender dating website. Would the men on there go as far to expect the women on the site to bend who they were to fit some fantasy in an outright straightforward manner right from the get-go? Specifically, with how they dress and primp themselves? All with a custom bullet point display, nonetheless?

Would a girl who liked to be casual in sweats and flip flops without perfectly pedicured nails be ruled out? If he were chasing after a cisgender woman, would he hold her to these requirements and standards?

And most importantly, would a guy, who bragged about “not being ashamed to be seen” with his girlfriend in very common venues such as movies and restaurants, come off as a strong, sexy, and considerate man in the relationship department? Would he even have thought about putting that on his profile for a cisgender dating site? Or would he have thought twice?

Far too often, transgender women aren’t seen as equal to cisgender women, often treated as not “good enough.” Often times we even lose our appeal the moment we have GRS. “Why would I date you now when I can date a real woman with a real pussy and not a man made one?” said a guy to a transgender friend of mine after she had her surgery. She had apparently lost all her appeal once she “lost” her penis.

We are marginalized, along with the men who chase after us. Many chasers are ashamed of the mere fact they are attracted to transgender women. And transgender women are often ridiculed as freaks, often wrongfully labeled as men who didn’t try hard enough to simply just be a gay man, as seducers with an evil and ulterior motive, transitioning to make “luring” men into our corner easier, supposedly.

In fact, I’ve often seen comments referring to us as delusional. “I want to be a dolphin, put a blowhole on my neck and give me a bottlenose and fins…..ridiculous right?!? Just because you feel like or want to be a woman doesn’t make you so,” are all very common responses towards transgender articles on news feeds.

An average gentleman on a cisgender dating website wouldn’t make his claim to fame by saying he wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen with his date in public. That wouldn’t get him very far. Although many women receive pictures of dicks and mirror shots of men in the bathroom, seldom do the women bend over backwards to accommodate those men who don’t put any effort or thought into being a gentleman. However, few men hold so much sway over women the way “tranny chasers” do. They seem to get away with very little respect and very little understanding of what they are chasing after. We are offered substandard behavior and often have very slim pickings with quality men out there.

So what should we do? I think we need to find a practice that works for us transgender women. A practice, a mantra, a way of dealing with moments when we are feeling lonely, up late at night feeling depressed; for when we are feeling insecure, less than our typical sense of attractiveness; for when we enter a judgmental headspace that erodes our self-esteem, where we try to categorize ourselves as worthy versus unworthy, as if that binary were all there was to choose from.

Upon working through our practice, we can own our own center, stay more balanced, trust in ourselves, and take power as our true selves were meant to do. In doing so, we won’t be seen as a group in society that is not worthy of equal treatment and respect, a group that will no longer be seen as not enough.