Op-ed: Remembering Pioneering Trans Writer, Activist, Matt Kailey

Note to Journalists covering transsexual/transgender stories.  People who came out in the 1950s and 1960 maybe even stretching it into the 1970s might legitimately be described as pioneers.  Someone who came out in the 1990s isn’t a pioneer.  Time to find a different laudatory terms for them.

Having read Matt’s writing adjectives and phrases like down to earth come to mind along with earnest.

From The Advocate:  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2014/05/21/op-ed-remembering-pioneering-trans-writer-activist-matt-kailey

Colorado-based transgender journalist Matt Kailey passed away over the weekend, but his influence is remembered by those he worked with.

BY Jacob Anderson-Minshall
May 21 2014

Trans author and activist Matt Kailey passed away this past weekend.

His sister shared these details: “I wanted to let you know that Matt Kailey, my brother, has passed away. He died of heart failure in his sleep Saturday night/early Sunday morning. His untimely and unexpected passing has been a shock. With the help of family and friends, I am currently working on processing this tragedy and making arrangements. I will post more information at a later time. Thank you for being Matt’s friends.”

Matt Kailey and I never met in person. And yet it’s hard to overstate the impact of Matt on my life. Without him, I simply wouldn’t be the man I am today.

Matt’s 2005 memoir, Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience, was one of the books I reviewed for Bitch magazine, which led me to uncover my own transgender identity. More than that, his experience as a 42-year-old straight woman turned gay trans man provided something of a roadmap for transition and proved that a late-in-life transition was absolutely possible. He gave me the courage to make my own transition at 38.

In the years since then I have often recalled moments from his book that paralleled my later experiences or continued to be my inspiration — like the image of Matt standing naked in front of a mirror and saying to himself, “This is a middle-aged trans man’s body.” I am still amazed by his ability to accept himself as he was, to embrace his trans body and boldly live as a gay man without undergoing bottom surgery.

Matt didn’t just blaze trails as a gay trans man demonstrating how the T fit with the LGB. He wasn’t just a role model for those of us who transitioned late in life. He was also one of the first visible trans journalists, who wrote for one of the oldest LGBT publications in the West, Colorado’s Out Front. His 2007 promotion to managing editor made Matt the highest-ranking trans journalist at a queer publication, a distinction he continues to hold.

After transitioning, I followed Matt’s lead and became a trans journalist myself. I ended up interviewing Matt a number of times including for my nationally syndicated TransNation column and for Gender Blender, the radio show I hosted in Portland, Ore. Over the years, our professional collaborations eventually grew into an online friendship. We wouldn’t connect 24/7, but Matt would always be quick to respond whenever I reached out to him.

Although he was dedicated to his work at Out Front, Matt was never one to rest on his laurels. Instead, he also became an award-winning activist and educator. He represented the trans male community in numerous news articles, television spots and five documentary films. He founded the award-winning blog Tranifesto. He spoke at dozens of conferences and colleges and developed his own training program for employers who needed guidance embracing trans people into the workplace.

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2014/05/21/op-ed-remembering-pioneering-trans-writer-activist-matt-kailey

Just because I love my mother doesn’t mean I have to become one myself

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/11/mother-childfree-happy

My choice to be child-free doesn’t threaten my own mother, so I don’t understand why some people insult her to explain me

theguardian.com, Sunday 11 May 2014

There are a lot of assumptions that people make about child-free women, and, as someone who’s been outspoken about my choices, I’ve heard all of them: we’re selfish, we’re lazy, we’re failing our fundamental role in life. But the one that stings the most – and makes me the angriest – is that we must have had terrible mothers, because nothing could be further from the truth.

Every step of my mostly idyllic childhood, my mom was around. A stay-at-home mother of two, she picked me up from school, took care of me when I was sick, made me eat a healthy breakfast, took me to the DMV for my first driver’s test, comforted me when I failed, and then took me back a week later for my second one (when I passed). She taught me.

My mother and my father also made sure that I saw the world and learned how many different kinds of people existed in it. Whether it was a tour of the Scottish countryside or just a weekend trip to the beach, my mom and my dad always instilled a lifelong love of travel and of learning about the experiences of others. It’s the greatest gift I have ever been given, and I cherish them both every day for it.

My mom always told me that when I grew up I could be anything that I wanted. And, to my own surprise, I did. I know that I owe a lot of it to the kind of parent she was, the kind of female role model she was (and is). My mom recognized my feminist tendencies from an early age and always made a point of mentioning successful women or noting a female role model she thought I could learn from. She never censored my reading material and always encouraged my writing ambitions. When my first book was published in 2010, she was the first person in line to buy copies.

After being raised by a devoted stay-at-home mother and seeing how much love and commitment my mother was capable of, I knew that I just didn’t have the same capacity myself – and that every child in the world deserves the amount of love I got growing up. There’s only one of my mom, and I’m not her.

It’s hard not to notice that people in the position opposite to me – those who had difficult childhoods but choose to be parents – are celebrated for their desire to have and raise children. It’s impossible to escape narratives of parents and would-be parents who want to give children what they never had, to correct the mistakes of their own youth, or to simply raise their kids better than they were raised. Nobody attributes any pathology to their choices, or assumes their parents were “bad” or “abusive”, or suggests that they need to get therapy to examine their real motivations.

I don’t know if the happy childhood I had is something I could replicate in this day and age. We’re a country that festishizes motherhood, but we’re not a country that wants to provide federally-mandated parental leave – let alone encourage men to take it. We’re a country that will spend billions of dollars on cards, flowers and brunches to celebrate our mothers one day a year, but will do nothing to help them pay for childcare in order to work or fulfill their own dreams for the other 364 days. We are a culture that shames women who get pregnant in any less-than-ideal circumstance, and one that often limits access to the education and contraception that would allow women to choose the right time and place for them. We shame mothers for breastfeeding and for not breastfeeding, for spanking and not spanking, for giving birth at home and for giving birth in a hospital. We tell women that choosing to have a child is the right choice, but it’ll be the last right choice that she’ll ever make.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/11/mother-childfree-happy

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It’s Time We Exposed the Media’s Lies About Transgender Kids

From Vice:  http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/paris-lees-mail-on-sunday-bullshit

By Paris Lees

What a horrible pile of shit the Mail on Sunday ran on its cover last weekend: “NHS to give sex change drugs to nine-year-olds: Clinics accused of ‘playing God’ with treatment that stops puberty”. You know what that means, don’t you? That the NHS is definitely NOT giving nine-year-olds any “sex change drugs” and won’t be any time soon.

The Telegraph, a paper that revels in being openly hostile towards trans people, is now repeating the misleading headline. And what’s with the “playing God” bullshit? As one parent of a trans child pointed out by email: “The Mail wouldn’t be questioning the treatment of diabetic children or children with congenital hypothyroidism on the NHS, so what makes it OK to print this shite about children receiving another kind of endocrine treatment?”

I don’t quite understand everything she’s talking about, but you can’t argue with an angry mother.

Papers pull stupid shit like this all the time; six of them recently admitted they got it wrong by making irrelevant references to a woman’s transgender status in a story about her nearly dying in a stag attack. A stag attack. A stag whose antler pierced her throat, broke her spine and narrowly missed her spinal cord and a couple of major arteries.

As far as we know, the stag didn’t attack her because she was transgender. Nevertheless, six national newspapers decided to print various details about Kate’s history, including her former name and the obligatory “sex swap” headlines. Admittedly the Mail wasn’t, in this instance, the worst offender, and quickly corrected its mistake. And they do run sympathetic – or, at least, neutral – articles sometimes. The point remains, though: the British media, as a whole, can be really, really shit when it comes to covering stories about transgender people.

This article is going to contain a lot of “shits”, because I give one. But does the media? I may be completely wrong, but the people arguing against so-called “sex change drugs” on behalf of vulnerable under-16s don’t, as far as I’m aware, go out of their way to combat gender-based bullying in schools. If you’re not doing anything to stop transgender kids from being beaten up – AKA, the most important issue here – then how the fuck are you planning to get away with starting a moralising headline campaign about the choices they’re allowed to make?

Continue reading at:  http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/paris-lees-mail-on-sunday-bullshit

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No trigger warnings in my class: Why you won’t find them on my syllabi

From Salon:   http://www.salon.com/2014/05/20/no_trigger_warnings_in_my_class_why_you_won%E2%80%99t_find_them_on_my_syllabi/

Learning is about rethinking our views. Censoring my students’ education before they obtain it will do the opposite

Every semester on the first day of my classes, I explain to students that at some point during the semester, the material that we cover will fundamentally challenge their thinking in some area that they hold dear, particularly their beliefs about race, gender and sexuality. I also explain to them that these challenges are less about making them change their minds, although I do hope that they will discard some particularly retrograde and unhelpful beliefs, and more about making them refine their opinions, while becoming clear and informed about what they think. If a student has not been challenged to fundamentally rethink the beliefs they hold dear, they have not been to college.

Therefore the growing national conversation, buttressed by demands from students, that college professors place trigger warnings on their syllabi to alert students to uncomfortable and traumatic material gives me great concern. While I care about my own academic freedom and the ways that trigger warnings impede my ability to teach course materials in the ways I deem most appropriate, I care far more about educating students who can entertain a range of competing views, wade through those beliefs, and come out on the other side with clarity and the capacity to articulate their position.

Yet, those of us in the academy are now encountering the generation of students educated under the high-stakes testing model of both No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. They are a generation of students who are uncomfortable with being made uncomfortable. They are a generation of students who want the right answers, and the assured A, rather than the challenge of thinking and writing their way through material that is more complex than the multiple choice answer requires. To me, such an orientation to the world – the desire for endless comfort – is an untenable educational proposition. Encountering material that you have never encountered before, being challenged and learning strategies for both understanding and engaging the material is what it means to get an education.

But in this era of the corporate university, the belief in educating students to be something other than laborers in the capitalist machine is increasingly obsolete. In many respects I understand this position: In a time when good public education is increasingly difficult to access at reasonable prices, creating strategies for making university education economically feasible guides policymaking at many universities. The reality is that parents want their children to be able to get out of school and get jobs that will offer them an economic livelihood. In that kind of environment it becomes harder to justify a robust humanities education focused on thinking about questions of power, the nature of human relationships, literature, history and politics.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/05/20/no_trigger_warnings_in_my_class_why_you_won%E2%80%99t_find_them_on_my_syllabi/

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