Jayne County talking about trans and queer life in New York City in the 1960s. She explains the “sex searches” police would conduct on drag queens and trans women during gay bar raids, making people expose their genitals to the police.
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.
LOVING THE BONY LADY, 2013
Arely Gonzalez’s bedroom is dominated by a giant altar; at its center a skeleton draped in jewelry and dressed in a sparkling jade gown. She is La Santa Muerte—The Holy Death—the object of Gonzalez’s affection, a powerful ally in a precarious life and a source of comfort—even miracles, some say—when nothing else helps.
Also known as La Flaca—the Skinny Lady—Santa Muerte has been worshipped in Mexico since the early twentieth century. Her origins are murky, perhaps a merging of Aztec or Mayan death deities with Catholic traditions. The Catholic Church of Mexico condemns her as blasphemy or devil worship, yet her popularity has exploded in the past decade, beginning in 2001 when a poor grandmother and resident of the Tepito neighborhood of Mexico City erected an outdoor altar to the bony saint. Today, millions of Mexicans are devotees of Santa Muerte, and her cult has crossed the border into the U.S. Popularly known as the “sinner’s saint,” Santa Muerte has a large following among drug-runners, prostitutes and Mexican prisoners. For anyone living outside of official society, she offers a kind of salvation.
Gonzalez, an immigrant transsexual, suffered discrimination and was kicked out of churches in Mexico. But in New York, she has become a leader in the community of Santa Muerte devotees. In addition to her bedroom shrine, which is the largest private Santa Muerte shrine in the city, Gonzales organizes a yearly celebration for her saint. It’s a party, but one of veneration–a kind of thanksgiving for the year of miracles brought by Santa Muerte.
(This is my new favourite documentary. By far.)
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.
Trish Salah reading her poetry during Imogen Binnie’s Nevada Book Launch at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, April 24th 2013.
Trish Salah is a total genius, trans lady poet who basically invented trans poetry, so y’all need to listen and learn to this amazing trans woman of colour. I still am in awe of the fact that I got her to perform at this event!
Mirha-Soleil Ross, excerpt from Yapping Out Loud: Contagious Thoughts From an Unrepentant Whore, 2004-2006.
I’ve been thinking about this quote all weekend. (For the casual reader, Victoria Day 1996 is when three sex workers, two of whom were trans, were murdered in Toronto by Marcello Palma who wanted to rid the Earth of what he called “scum.” These women were Deanna Wilkinson, Shawna Junior Keegan, and Brenda Ludgate.)
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.