Laurence Michael Dillon (1915-1962)
The first trans man to undergo phalloplasty. He may also have been the first transsexual to perform surgery on another transsexual, when he performed an illegal orchiectomy on his then fiancée Roberta Cowell (who dumped him afterwards for not being “man enough” and married a cis man). Michael Dillon later converted to Buddhism, changed his name to Lobsang Jivaka, and studied under the now discredited but at the time popular faux-guru T. Lobsang Rampa (author of The Third Eye among other notably fake accounts of Tibetan Buddhism).
He is credited as the first trans man to undergo modern hormonal and surgical transition in Britain. After being the subject of scandal in British media, he moved to India to live as a Buddhist monk, where he died in obscure poverty at the age of 47.
We found out yesterday that Maggie’s: Toronto’s Sex Worker’s Project (where I serve as a member of the board of directors), along with Stella, POWER, Scarlet Alliance, and every single organization that supports decriminalization of sex work have been rejected for intervener status in the upcoming Supreme Court of Canada hearings, which are scheduled for June 13th.
Accepted for intervener status (partial list):
What does this mean for the upcoming hearings? While both lower courts ruled in favour of decriminalization, it is not looking hopeful that the Supreme Court will side with their logic. If the Supreme Court does not rule in our favour, it is unlikely that they will agree to hear a sex work decriminalization case again for the next ten years or so. That means that this is basically our last chance for a very long time.
The climate at the Supreme Court right now is looking pretty bad for all Canadians; in October the Supreme Court ruled to increase the requirements for HIV-positive people to have sex, making it twice as difficult to avoid criminalization. If you are living with HIV, you must now both use a condom AND have a documented low or undetectable viral load, if you are not able to disclose (side note: many are unable to disclose their HIV status, either due to the intense stigma associated with it, fear of criminalization, and/or the unfortunately very real danger of violence). While many organizations do not draw a line between these two issues, those of us who have been, continue to be, work with, support, and love street-based sex workers have to view these two issues (decrim of sex work and decrim of HIV non-disclosure) as inseparable.
Both of these issues disproportionately affect people of colour, trans women, cis women, prisoners, gay men, lower income people, and both documented and undocumented migrants, and those who exist at the intersections of these identities. As I have argued at length in the past, and will probably have to continue to do in the future, the decriminalization of sex work and HIV non-disclosure are two of the most pressing legal issues for trans people in Canada. These two legal issues account for the majority of trans people being put into jails and prisons and exposed to police violence. The Crown (Government of Canada, for you Americans out there) has relied on “expert witnesses” such as JANICE RAYMOND (author of the transphobic screed The Transsexual Empire, which is directly responsible for the deaths of trans women in North America) and now on interveners such as Vancouver Rape Relief (one of the most openly transphobic feminist organizations in North America).
There is, unfortunately, little we can do at this stage, as the decisions are out of our hands now. I feel that it’s important to get this information out into the world, and particularly out to trans communities who are disproportionately affected by criminalization, police brutality, and anti-sex worker stigma.
Can I take a moment to tell you all about something amazing? In recent years, the place of trans women in pornography has been a topic of hot debate within trans communities, and a site of some awesome activism. Some of this activism has included Tobi Hill-Meyer’s seminal Doing it Ourselves: Trans Women Porn Project, which featured queer trans women in a feminist porn context. That movie brought a lot of issues around transmisogyny to light, and queer trans women have been making serious inroads into the feminist porn world as a result.
But what about straight trans women? So often trans activism focuses on one specific trans experience: that of a mostly white, exclusively queer kind of trans person. Straight trans women have been left out of the conversation. And when we talk about straight trans woman porn, we can see only typical tranny and shemale porn produced for a cis male gaze.
Well, legendary feminist pornographer Nica Noelle has changed that. She has started a new studio called Trans Romantic that creates porn specifically catering to the desires of straight trans women and other trans women who like cis men. This is stuff made for a trans woman’s gaze. The first title in this series, Forbidden Lovers, has a plotline about a cis man taking his trans woman girlfriend home to meet his parents, before she’s disclosed being trans. When she does disclose, they have amazing and hot sex! The non-sex parts are super cute and really romantic and lovely. Dreamy!
The great thing about this is that the men are really hot! Tranny and shemale porn are stigmatized industries, meaning that male performers often won’t be able to return to straight or gay porn if they do tranny or shemale porn, and that results in usually really unattractive/boring guys doing it with super babely trans ladies. Nica Noelle has found REALLY HOT GUYS who are excited to be part of these films! This is a big deal in the porn world.
I absolutely loved Forbidden Lovers, and I’m not even straight. Want to support things for trans women and not just your tiny bubble of acceptably queer ones? SUPPORT TRANS ROMANTIC!!
Edited to add: Also! These movies are produced with plotlines that show trans women as not only objects of desire, but SUBJECTS OF LOVING RELATIONSHIPS. That is hugely revolutionary.
RADICAL FEMINISTS ARE WORTH NONE OF YOUR TIME
a litany of prayers to the self and the Trans Ancestors
In the names of the Mothers, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Pay-It-No-Mind Johnson,
the Daughters, Venus Xtravaganza and Greer Lankton,
and the Holy Ghosts, Mark Aguhar and Candy Darling,
I pray for the strength to not let my attention be diverted,
from the artwork and lifework of those Beautiful Queens.
Let not the terrible machinations of those False Feminists,
C.B., Dirt, et al.,
occupy my mind, body, or soul,
which I dedicate unto the divine work of #girlslikeus.
For late at night, though I may walk through the Valley of the Shadows of their hate-filled blogs,
I shall fear no evil.
For I know that I am among the chosen.
I stand on the shoulders of Ancestors spanning all of time, in every culture,
where we have been and are healers, artists, spirit-workers, and lovers.
And from these Ancestors I will have strength.
And from that strength I will remember
that it does not befit a Queen to Pay It Any Mind,
and I will remember that we are all Great Queens on this Earth.
My doctor, who is a trans woman, and I had a conversation today about the guy who raped me earlier this year. At first she was like “did you charge him?” When I explained that he’s a trans man of colour, she immediately got why I hadn’t. Not because I couldn’t bare to put a trans person, especially a trans person of colour, in jail (which I can’t), but also because it would cause me to be completely ostracized by the queer/trans community in Toronto. I’d be “just another crazy trans woman.” It was an uncomfortable realization for both of us to sit there, as trans women, knowing that we have literally no recourse when violence is enacted on us within the community (though if the same violence conveniently came from a white cis straight man, we would be celebrated as heroes for standing up to such an easy target, at least within the queer/trans community).
She and I both, as professionals in the community, are well aware of the fine line we have to walk in order to be taken seriously in the queer/trans community. We not only have to look a certain way (both in terms of passing and in terms of conforming to queer normative acceptable standards of appearance), we also have to make sure not to rock the boat too much. We have to appear as sane and calm as possible, no matter the circumstances. If we show too much emotion at any time (read: any inconvenient emotion), we get hit with a double-whammy of misogyny and transphobia, quickly written off as hysterical “crazy trans women.” Accuse the wrong person of something, anyone too close to queer-home, and that’s the end of our credibility and the revoking of our entrance passes to Queerlandia.
It’s exhausting having to walk such a fine line. I’ve found that there are so many “danger zones” to watch out for. Trans women have to not only be queer-literate (knowing queer social justice language), we have to be exceptionally good at using it. Any minor slip of language or politics and we’re labeled “crazy trans women” by cis people while trans men nod knowingly in agreement — rarely standing up for us, and just as often perpetuating the ‘crazy trans woman’ stereotype themselves.
I became aware of this initially through cryptic warnings from an older queer trans woman friend of mine, years before I became involved in the queer community, but I didn’t realize the extent of it at first. That is, until I was invited to participate in it. When I first became involved heavily, I befriended two trans men whom I looked up to a great deal, and one of the first conversations we had in private was a gossip session in which they “warned” me about various trans women and got me to agree that they were “crazy.” I’ve found similar conversations throughout the community, often used in a way that it makes me wonder if what’s really happening is that they’re subconsciously testing my loyalty to the queer zeitgeist. Am I good tranny or a bad tranny? Am I willing to be part of their clique, giving them the ability to deflect any and all criticism of transmisogyny, or am I a “problem?”
Before I realized that this was a system, that trans women were being systematically tested and written off, I engaged in it myself. You get a self-esteem boost, knowing that the cool kids don’t count you among those trans women. Those trans women who stepped on the wrong toes, who take up “too much space,” who don’t have the right guilt-producing identity complex to be worthy of space (disabled young trans sex workers of colour who vogue are considered highly prized friend-accessories, to be seen but not really heard beyond the occasional “gurl” for comedic effect, but only if they have the right haircut and the right clothes and are working towards a bachelors of gender studies or similarly useless degree).
Who are these “crazy trans women?” Often they are incredibly sincere activists who haven’t had the privilege of being taught all of the ins and outs of anti-oppression social justice practice that is a prerequisite to membership in this queer community. Often they are labeled “too emotional” and “too angry,” “loose cannons” who are out of control when speaking about our experiences of sex work that don’t fit into the easily digestible “I do queer feminist porn on weekends to pay for my fluevogs while I’m in grad school” vision of sex work that the queer community has deemed acceptable. Often they are trans women who are said to take up “too much space,” while everyone whispers about how “you know, I know it’s wrong to say, but she just seems like she has male privilege, you know? Like you can just feel it. Not that I’m saying she’s a man, but, you know, you never know.”
At the end of the day, this whole complex of issues is simply misogyny, ableism, and transphobia dressed up as “community accountability.” It holds trans women to impossible standards, opening us up to vulnerability to all forms of in-community violence (physical, sexual, social), and creating a fear within the minds of so many queer trans women that our second-class position within the queer community could be ripped from our hands at any time for any minor infraction.
I’m tired of trying not to be a crazy trans woman in the voyeuristic eyes of queer community.
Morgan M Page/Odofemi, 2013.