The following is a transcript of an interview for The Queer Life radio show with host Kaiya Kramer on KBBF 89.1 FM Calistoga, 4/3/15. We discuss transgender issues and news, and radical transfeminism and why we need it.
Kaiya: Alright hello everybody, I am your host Kaiya Kramer and this is the queer life radio show. Tonight my special guest is Diana Morningstar. Thank you
Diana: Hello and thank you.
Kaiya: (Queer Life podcast announcement)
Just another update is my cohost Mandi, she is still in recovery from gender confirmation surgery with Dr. Marci Bowers in Burlingame, and she is now happily healing out there with her family, and we wish her the best of luck, and the best of healing and sending positive energy her way. She is probably doped up pretty good by now, as a result of having had major surgery! So we’ll give her a valid break this time for not coming to the show.
(more show announcements)
Again, Diana, thank you so much for joining us.
Diana: It’s a pleasure to be here.
K: Great, so I want to introduce you real quick. Diana gave me a short bio. We’re interviewing Diana Morningstar, a trans woman, environmental activist, and witch:
“I am a transsexual woman living in Sonoma County. I am bisexual and polyamorous. I have been an environmental activist, and in Queer Nation in the ’90’s. I write software, make graphic art, play piano and harp, and love to bicycle and hike. I feel most at home in a forest by moonlight. I honor the divine feminine, and identify as a witch and an amazon. I identify as a radical feminist, despite the efforts of trans exclusionists, and wish to see our world liberated from patriarchal oppression. I also identify as a nerd and have a degree in Biophysics. I am 56 years old, and relatively recently transitioned. I am willing to talk about my gender transition on The Queer Life to help more people become aware of the issues we face as trans people, and I will do what I can to make life less difficult for the next generation of queer people of all kinds. I support inclusion within queer community, and freedom for all of us to self define according to our own authentic feelings. If anyone wants to get under the transgender umbrella with me, feel free, it’s not as if it’s keeping the rain out much.”
(laughs) I like that! OK, so first question that I ask everyone on this show, what are your preferred gender pronouns, what’s your gender identity, what’s your sexual orientation?
D: OK, I prefer to be her, or she, or herself, and I’m a transsexual woman. As the bio states my sexual orientation bisexual, or also pansexual I’m not concerned so much about exactly what gender my partner is, though I lean toward the feminine, and it’s far from exclusive.
K: What would you say, you know, I’ve had a couple of people identify as strictly bisexual, others who have used the word pansexual. For you, what would you say, how would you define each one, if there is a difference, or if for you they’re interchangeable?
D: I think there’s a lot of overlap between the meaning that people use those words for. Bisexual was the available word for something other than gay or straight, and I remember being told I must be fictional because of that, and by a gay male at that.
K: Yeah, bisexual doesn’t exist, you’re just on the fence or you haven’t been with enough guys yet, or you haven’t been with enough girls.
D: Now, some background stuff, pansexual comes along to emphasize diversity of spectrum of gender people might be attracted to, not just two. I don’t think most people who use bisexual really mean they’re limited to only people who are very feminine or very masculine or something, so they end being pretty much the same thing really.
K: What there’s more than two?
D: Really. We’ll get to that.
K: Yeah, so I really like presenting a bisexual and pansexual perspective because a lot of people do think it’s this transitionary phase. Bisexual is indeed real, do you agree with this?
D: I certainly would, since I experience it.
K: How do you catch it? (laughs) But anyhow, I also want to ask you about your background, where did you grow up?
D: I grew up mostly in New England, and in my 20’s, dissatisfied with life, I went driveabout and made great cultural discoveries in alternative culture, and got on to the west and found California, checked in and never left.
K: That’s a good place, I mean that’s why we pay the big bucks. In here you say you’re an environmental activist, and in the Queer Nation in the 90’s, you know, why do you say that?
D: I wanted to talk about some of the things that matter to me, and the environmental crisis is big because I think we all need air to breath and water to drink and a habitable planet and little things like that, or how we resolve the queer issues isn’t really going to matter much.
K: If we don’t have air to breath or water to drink.
D: You know, little stuff like that.
K: I’m thinking of how we are experiencing a severe drought in California right now, and so I really like that you bring up that point, you know because I spend a lot of time speaking about queer issues, but there are honestly, and not to knock what I’m doing, but there are some more important issues in terms of us being able to live on this planet
D: Well, I’m not so much lately focused on any particular form of environmental activism because in this transition I’m undergoing, every day makes me a trans activist already.
K: Why do you say that?
D: Because I’m already talking to people to it a lot, I am constantly educating, practice trans visibility all the time, Trans Day of Visibility, just like any other day.
K: Yeah, what is Trans Day of Visibility?
D: That is an event that was declared last Tuesday, for March 31st, an annual event, in which we go a little further out of our way to present ourselves to the world, to remind people that yes, we really do exist, we live here too, and other things like that. And I say for me, it wasn’t much of a difference, I go out in the world all the time and talk with people, so today was another day of trans visibility, and this evening we have a trans evening of audibility.
K: (laughs) I like that. “Trans evening of audibility” I like that, you know, I’m going to take that from you.
D: You’re welcome.
K: I mean, why do you think trans people need to be visible? You know, I’m going to play the devil’s advocate real quick here. You know, why “There’s already gay pride, there’s you know, you already have your parades and stuff like that, why do you need a transgender day, why do you have to keep rubbing it in our faces?”
D: Well, because otherwise it seems that we just get rubbed out of existence, so it’s important that people see us known and real, and perhaps gain a little more understanding about us in the process, you know it’s not so much imposing ourselves on them, in their faces, it’s like hey, we’re real. The other thing that’s really important is that there are still a lot of trans people out there who feel isolated, who are even in despair, who need community, who need outreach. Making ourselves a little easier to find, communicating more is going to help this. It would have made a big difference in my life…
K: Um in doing what we’re doing here, potentially there’s trans people listening to this show.
D: Yes, I’d expect.
K: I mean statistically speaking, and the statistics for the number of trans out there, it’s there’s no definitive number out there. Some people say it’s 1 in 300, and I’ve seen other numbers, you know, 1 in 50,000, and I see other numbers 1 in 15,000. The one I hover around is 1 in 15,000.
D: Uh huh, yeah, and it’s always going to be a little bit murky because exactly who is one kind of trans is going to be a variable thing, and that’s one overarching point about my attitude toward gender politics and gender in general, is that the boundaries are blurred. For example gay and lesbian can only be defined as precisely as you can define “man” and “woman.” If you look at what sports leagues have had to go through to define men and women, you realize it’s not always that straightforward. Um, likewise with transness, we have different kinds of us who want different things, who feel differently, who have different stories, and so it’s really hard to pin down, depending on how you survey, on what you look for, you’ll find something different.
K: You say there’s different kinds of trans. What other kinds of trans are there?
D: Well, in a sense of looking at a broader transgender umbrella, there are people like me who are male to female transsexual women, and people who would rather be male, but are assigned female at birth. Then you have genderqueer people who want to escape from a choice of being male or female altogether. I totally understand that. My choice to be toward the feminine end is not in any way reinforcing the gender binary.
K: Right, what is the gender binary?
D: The idea is that there are just two genders, and that they have certain characteristics pretty solidly associated with them, and that gender somehow exists outside ourselves as some kind of pure platonic ideals that we refer to in all our mortal existence.
K: Right, you know I really like bringing up the idea of the gender binary because it’s what a lot of people are of kind of really familiar with. I mean, most people don’t know there’s such a thing as genderqueer, or, you know, rejecting the gender binary, being outside of you know “Men are this way”, “Women are this way”, “Transsexual women are this way, transsexual men are this way” So I like what you said there, that you’re not necessarily trying to reinforce.
D: No, I’m having my own experience of gender, this thing that’s going on that I’ve just described, the ideals of imaginary gender, that’s the social construction of gender. It’s a cultural thing, it even shifts over time, it’s not a platonic ideal at all.
D: And there’s also our inner experience of gender, maybe there needs to be another word to describe these two kinds of gender someday. But that’s a lived, embodied, experiential, subjective thing and there are as many kinds of that as there are people on this earth, as many human genders.
K: Yeah, and you know it’s really interesting to speak about this, even from my own perspective on this show, as a transsexual woman, as a Thai transsexual woman, I’m like the cliché poster child of trans. (laughs) But, you say here you feel most at home in the forest by moonlight, you honor the divine feminine and identify as a witch and an amazon. That sounds really cool. I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons a lot, so I have different images of what this means. (laughs) You know, Gary Gygax, rest in peace.
D: No, it’s more than D&D for grownups, though sometimes we play around as if it was, because it’s fun.
D: So that affinity with the forest goes back a long way for me. I grew up in an eastern forest where I was free to wander a large stretch which was a source of solace and sanity, and so there’s a bond for me there. That experience, that’s in part what moved me to become a forest defender, and part of that was taking time off work and traveling around the northwest during the timber wars.
K: Oh wow. Can you elaborate on what you did in participation in the timber wars?
D: With Earth First! people, I helped with the logistics of camps and did some jail support and running supplies to tree sitters, various activities like that. I managed to never get arrested doing that, which is…
K: I was going to ask.
D: No, I didn’t get arrested, and never actually went up a tree myself. For everyone you see out there, that visible protestor with the huge banner deployed, there’s a bunch of support people, so I was one of those.
K: Wow, that’s incredible. Ah, what was your, was you being trans or queer any part of this?
D: It was during a period of trans denial, trying to deny it within me, and…
K: What is trans denial?
D: That’s when I was trying to pretend I wasn’t. I’d be some kind of cool alternative guy. Things were going wrong with that vision as I was trying to enact it, and it was not entirely a wasted exercise, at least I unlearned some maleness and…
K: (laughs) We call those bad habits.
D: Absolutely, it goes beyond actually the question of happening to be assigned male and not being happy with that, and also with this phenomenon of patriarchy culturally, in which being male gets you really some pretty negative, damaging lessons. I think as a culture, these need to be superseded.
K: You know you talk here about honoring the divine feminine, being a radical feminist, what does that mean to you?
D: Well, I think it’s important that we pay attention to that the divine, God, or however you see that, as being feminine as much as masculine, and genderqueer as much as anything else either, or no gender, and that the idea that the sacred order of the universe echoes male supremacy and the patriarchy I think is pretty damaging. I don’t believe that at all, and I have confidence that should a divine power exist, it’s something better than that.
K: So, you know, you say you identify as a radical feminist despite the efforts of trans exclusionists. What are these trans exclusionists that you’re speaking of here?
D: Ah, there’s a long sad tale there. I’ll start with the radical feminist part. Why radical feminism? Because I’m not just a feminist who’s interested in equal pay and political equality.
K: And bra burning. (laughs)
D: Bra burning? I’ve never seen anyone actually burn a bra, I’ve heard legends.
K: Please tell.
D: Umm, but I also don’t wear one thank goodness. I’ve been grateful for those who have made it safer for all women, because it’s made it safer for trans women too.
D: And I feel it has to go beyond the political aspect of equality to the cultural aspect of equality, changing this thing that’s been called patriarchy, male dominance or male superiority, in which women are presumed to be lesser than men, do not count as much, and to be less valued.
K: I mean, that’s infused in the history of MANkind.
D: Yes it is, under which violence against women, and coercion to enforce cultural norms on women is just normalized and sanctioned.
K: Whew, I mean, I come from the perspective of being from Thailand and we, even there we have our own sort of ideals of how men are supposed to be and how women are supposed to be in terms of treating each other. What role does what. I have an Asian mother, or Thai mother, you know Confucianism definitely made its way down there.
D: Uh huh.
K: But you say you wish to see our world liberated from patriarchal oppression. Do you think that might be idealistic?
D: Of course it is. You have that ideal to reference in order to make progress, just as one might have a vision of a world free of racism…
K: What are you talking about? Racism doesn’t exist. (sarcastically)
K: Right, everybody who listens to this radio station is rolling their eyes back in their head.
D: You know, just as we’re nowhere near postracial, we’re also nowhere near postpatriarchal, though somebody tried to running that word past us in the late 80’s.
D: Saying we’re post patriarchal now. Right. And I see that problem being very tied together, that problem of privilege and oppression, of interlocking oppressions, in which nobody really emerges unscathed. There are few of us who are free to be ourselves unless we get out from under the thumb of patriarchy. And the supposed privileges of getting to be one of the guys who pushes people around and coerces really aren’t exactly the kind of freedom we should all be having either. So, it’s not good for anyone.
K: So giving up so called male privilege in transitioning to a trans woman, you know what, giving up that privilege, was that a big deal to you?
D: No, no, as a male I was struggling with it, attempting to get rid of it, and…
K: We’re talking about privilege here not body parts. (jokingly)
D: No, or course, and so actually it’s kind of a relief now to just not have it. We don’t get to consent to what privileges we have. There are those who say “But I’m not privileged.” We don’t get to decide that any more than the oppressed get to decide whether they’re being oppressed.
D: But we do have a choice about how we react to privilege. Just to be with it, to work with it, to try to see into the blind spots that privilege creates, whether that’s a class privilege that makes you unable to see how people get by on very little indeed, or why they need to, or race privilege where you just assume that of course everybody gets the kind of dignity and respect you do, of course, don’t we all you know?
K: (laughs) Right. Anyhow here, we are going to go to a short break…
K: Alright everybody, you are listening to the Queer Life radio show, LGBT news, round table discussions, and interviews. I am your host Kaiya Kramer, and I am joined this evening with my guest Diana Morningstar, trans radical feminist, trans woman, environmental activist and witch. We were just talking about feminism, radical feminism, and you know leading off into what the deal is with radical feminists and trans role in there, and for yourself.
D: OK, therein hangs a tale. Though I say I identify as a radical feminist, there are some other people who identify as radical feminists who do not believe that trans women are women, do not believe that trans women should be…
K: Wait wait.
D: …allowed in women’s spaces.
K: They don’t believe trans women are women?! These are *feminists* who don’t believe trans women are women???
D: This is correct.
K: I don’t understand.
D: I don’t either, but it has happened. This dates back to the 70’s, this conflict. Before then there wasn’t any evidence of its existence at all.
K: Cue the David Bowie.
D: Right – in which academic feminist scholars come up with a gender theory. You know, I can appreciate that they wanted to do something to replace the existing patriarchal version of gender, which I also have serious objections to. But in that theory, trans people don’t exist.
K: I’m like trying to look through, it’s like Back to the Future where you know Marty, when he sees his hands start to disappear.
D: Those of us who think we exist anyway are mistaken, and we’re agents of the patriarchy, we’re only trying to infiltrate women’s spaces, to carry rape culture into feminist space, that’s what we’re about you know, and…
K: Whew, I’m just trying to unload this right now.
D: So, and this wasn’t just a theory, this was put into practice. Trans women were physically thrown out of the Michigan Women’s Music Festival.
K: This is not- whew! Just like, correct me if I’m wrong, but like somehow in my puny transsexual mind, I thought that I would be welcomed into women’s spaces.
D: That’s happening more and more, and I’m really glad for that. It brings a tear to my eye when I am, because I know the history that’s happened, and I’ve experienced being barred, so…
K: So, is this, is this on the basis of religion, is this on the basis of… You know, what are these radical feminists, the exclusionary…
D: It is based on the idea of us as a menace, that trans women are so hopelessly conditioned by the patriarchy into maleness, there is no way they could possibly enter women’s space without carrying the negative energy of patriarchal culture, and being a threat to the other women there. They wouldn’t say “other women” even, of course. And so there was a protest camp that grew outside the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. There was a lesbian feminist music label that went on in the 70’s. This was a big deal when printing records was a fairly expensive thing to do. And it turned out that one of the people in that record company was trans, and she ended up being basically drummed out of there for that.
K: Oh wow.
D: Though she had supporters too, that was the net outcome, and for a while there that trans exclusionary viewpoint really holds ascendency in lesbian feminist culture and in radical feminist culture. That doesn’t start to crack until the 90’s at all.
K: Wow! So they just, they believe that we are agents, I feel like this is a Bond movie or something, the Agents of the Patriarchy infiltrating women’s spaces to introduce rape culture.
D: Well, there was a book called The Transsexual Empire, it’s sort of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion for trans women.
K: Do we have like a transsexual empress, that way
K: … or emperor, you know it’s like we’re like a Darth Vader trans…
D: Sort of like that, it’s like we take our orders directly from the evil patriarch in the death star orbiting overhead.
D: Or something like that, eventually getting ridiculed as The Empire Strikes Back in a crucial early manifesto written by the self same woman who was thrown out of the lesbian record company.
K: I’m going to ruin the ending for you, but the man is our father. (laughs) I just, you know, I’m just kind of blown away a little bit here that, you know, it’s like I don’t know, it’s like the whole idea of there being a gay agenda. It’s like there’s a transsexual patriarchy rape agenda, or something like that.
D: Yeah, and over the years that has shifted, and the new generation of feminists want nothing much to do with this viewpoint, outside of a few acolytes of the academic elders who are still unrepentant about this.
K: How do we find them, I’d love to have them on the show.
D: Do you really want to put on a trans exclusionary radical feminist, or as the acronym goes, TERF?
K: TERF, scruffy looking TERF herder.
D: Um, something like that. That’s your choice, and first you ought to read up and become familiar with that cultural minefield before you step into it.
K: Can I go to Barnes and Noble and pick up this Transsexual Empire Strikes Back book?
D: You can find it used or download it or something.
K: I’m not sure I want to contribute money to something like that.
D: That’s exactly my point there.
D: Find someone who already has a reference copy.
K: You know, but it’s like I kind of want to read the manuscript of people that believe this.
D: Yeah, actually there’s also an online book, Gender and Transgender in Modern Paganism, or something like that, I’ll get a link for that to you after the show.
K: Yeah, and we can definitely make anything that we’re speaking about here available on the web site on TheQueerLife.org, this is episode 35, Diana Morningstar, trans radical feminist. Um so, I’m like, I’m like still just like wow, you know…
D: So, in the early 90’s I was involved in Queer Nation, which is a very exciting time, it was the coining of the modern meaning of the word queer.
K: Yeah, what’s Queer Nation?
D: Queer Nation were an activist group in the early 90’s, starting in the late 80’s, and really shook up gay and lesbian activism, started including bisexual and transgender, and it was out of a Queer Nation related bisexual activist group that I first saw the words lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender written out in that order together, spelled, because nobody knew that acronym yet.
K: Lesbian and gay, bisexual, transgender.
D: It was actually the first place I saw the word transgender, and I still own that button.
K: Wow, that’s incredible. 1982?
K: 1992, whew!
D: Yeah, so I went to Queer Nation meetings, one of which was held at a sort of lesbian feminist oriented cafe, which at the time I though was entirely cool. I was being drawn toward goddess culture, anti-patriarchal culture, feminist culture and I was also desperately struggling to identify as some kind of cool alternative guy who was, you know, somewhat queer somehow.
D: And we’re having a meeting at that lesbian cafe, and somebody’s pounding on the door, because we’re already locked up for the evening because we’re already well into the meeting, and it’s this desperate trans woman who has been thrown out of her apartment, not even given a chance to collect much of her stuff and she needs help.
D: It’s one of those things that helped keep me scared off that transitioning stuff. And so she gets in, my boyfriend and I come over and talk to her, and several of the women present are saying “Well, that’s not on the agenda. We have to go on with our agenda”, and so OK, we go talk to her, they go on with their agenda, and I hear from the other table “They’re talking about *men’s* issues over there.” OK, so that was the cultural milieu, even within queer culture.
K: Wow, so…
D: I mean, that still goes on, but it’s now a diminishing minority.
K: Wow, a male centric sort of perspective there, dominance if you will.
D: Yeah, that once you are declared male, there’s no escape.
K: I mean, you know, you brought up seeing the acronym LGBT, lesbian gay bisexual transgender, for the first time in ’92, ’91, it kind of brings a question to my mind, you know, why is it LBT, why isn’t it GLBT, you know I’ve seen GLBT, I’ve seen people who adamantly use that.
D: OK, originally, it was the gay liberation movement, and then the lesbians said “We don’t really think of ourselves a gay women, we’re lesbian”, and it became gay and lesbian, and then “Why the men first?”, lesbian and gay. But then even, some of us aren’t 100% pure in terms of what gender we’re attracted to.
D: This was really controversial then. As I said earlier about gender politics, boundaries are blurry, come on, get over it.
D: So there’s no precise definition you can make that won’t cut right through the middle of someone. And so it was becoming GLB or LGB, and a at a bi activist meeting, and somewhere at that end of the spectrum, that I was not involved in, somewhere in there, trans activists came forward, and said hey, include us, and this was really a crucial thing that happened. This was a small beginning of something big for us.
D: That “T” never went back away, even sometimes when it was being ignored, and when “T” was sometimes for “token”, it didn’t go away. It didn’t get totally forgotten.
K: So the “T” was silent for a while.
D: Yeah, but it didn’t go away, and people kept asking, what’s that “T”, what does that mean?
K: You know, you know, why was “T” such a quiet part of this whole group? Um, why didn’t they have a voice beforehand?
D: Well, extreme marginalization of trans people. At that time, to be trans was to be extremely secretive about it, to have a great deal of difficulty finding other trans people, communicating about trans issues. That’s part of why I wasn’t able to find information about transition. And there was even exclusionism and narrowness of definition going on in trans community, because we ourselves weren’t exposed to the diversity of our stories, and there were stories going around like you *had* to know since you were a small child etc etc that, you know people, I got excluded as “Not trans enough” in a couple of conversations with trans activists that maybe would have spared a lot of like decades of agony since then.
K: What is “Not trans enough”?
D: When you don’t meet the definitions of trans purity, which fortunately are less common now. Most trans support groups today are pretty willing to accept you, for example, if you’re questioning. One of the dogmas was “You can have no doubts.”
D: Even though if you live in a culture that does nothing but pour doubt and derision on you for thinking that way at all, or sticking your neck out a little bit, …
K: I don’t understand what you mean. (jokingly)
D: And the old trope of you have to have known since you were a small child, which straight culture still fixates on. You have to really really really want the surgery or you’re not trans enough, THE surgery, a fixation shared with straight culture.
K: Yeah, and just to, still to a huge degree that’s still going on.
D: Some of that goes on, yes.
K: You know, peer pressure from both the cis and the trans community for trans women and trans men to undergo, you know, a gender reassignment.
D: And I think we should be allowed our personal experience of gender and its authentic expression without being required to perform surgical or medical modifications. People should be free to choose. Myself, I have made some choices there, I done the hormonal therapy, I’m really really really glad I did, I’ve been wanting this for a long time.
D: It’s beautiful and amazing. I think it has touched me more deeply in a way that no surgery could.
D: This is my experience, I’m not saying anybody else is experiencing their transness incorrectly. So, I still have some questions with myself as to what I want to do with regard to the available medical technology.
K: So you’re saying not every single trans woman or trans man wants to get their, um, undergo the gender reassignment surgery.
D: Maybe not, yeah.
K: And you’re saying that’s just as valid as any other form of transliness.
D: Yeah, I mean it’s something that’s available to us through advances in medical technology. That’s a fine thing.
K: It’s incredible, I mean ah…
D: It’s incredible, amazing things are being done, and I’m so glad it’s there. On the other hand, if I had been born into a time when only the hormones were available and the surgery was too risky, I’d still be identifying as a transsexual woman, still want those hormones, want to live this way.
K: Right, I mean it’s just a, you know, it’s an incredible thing to, you know, have people dictate your gender identity is based upon what your genitals are.
D: Uh huh.
K: And you know what do you think about that, people who say “Oh well, you’re not really a woman unless you have a vagina, you’re not really a man unless you have a penis.”
D: I think that’s just part of the general genital centered thinking that has gone on with the patriarchal gender system, that phalluses or the lack of them is the ultimate fascination, that there’s some kind of huge power and symbolism there. It’s just a little lobe of flesh, get over it.
K: (laughs) Hey, who you calling little?
D: Ah, on the larger scale of the world it’s not that big even if you’re considered well endowed. Deal with it.
K: You know, it’s just, you know really interesting to hear that because of what I’ve noticed in trans spaces, you know, this is something cis people have kind of imposed, you know, “Oh, have you had the operation?” I mean a lot of, you know, people will walk up and “Oh, so when are you getting the operation?” and they’ll make a motion of scissors, or hedge clippers or something, or a guillotine.
D: They’ll flinch a little and try not to grasp their crotch as say that.
K: Yeah, eeeeh, you know like? I’m sure some of our listeners are doing that.
D: A note to all of you cisgender people out there who want to be allies and friends of trans people, which I strongly encourage you to do, don’t just walk up to us and start asking about the surgery.
D: We field this question *so* much, and I mostly am being pretty nice about it, but it’d be nice to just learn a little bit about one another, find out if this trans person you’re talking to is really open to that kind of conversation.
K: Right. And if you want to know about it, there’s this magical tool that I’m, I think all of us have it on our phone, it’s called Google. Um, you know Eric Schmidt has put a lot of money into this, it’s a multi billion dollar corporation, to make it so you can look up LOL cat pictures and learn about genital reassignment surgery.
D: As much as you want to know.
K: Even pictures and videos and it’s…
D: Yeah, I haven’t watched the videos
K: I’ve watched the videos and it’s, it’s pretty intense, as you know, somebody who’s kind of around this all my, a lot of people within our trans community and, you know, exploring the option, you know, for myself, but that’s a different matter altogether, and I’m sure a lot of listeners out there are like “Well, have you gotten, you know, got it all chopped off yet?” You know, this is the kind of things, you know the questions people have.
D: And that’s one little misconception, which I know you’re using in quotes…
D: …the idea of much of anything being chopped off. Actually very little tissue is removed, mostly it’s rearranged.
K: Yes. Oh man, and that’s you know, what Mandi, the cohost, the frequent cohost of this show has just undergone, and so that’s pretty intense, and I’m sure at some point we’ll have her come on and, you know, talk about it and, you know, stay tuned to hear more. But I want to ask you a question as we’re winding down the interview hour here. You talk about, you’re on a show called The Queer Life, and you were in the Queer Nation in the ’90’s, what do you think about the term queer, because there’s a lot of people, you know, who think that when they hear that word, hearing it used in a pejorative way like that, was offensive, using it to cause harm to us. How do you feel about this use of the word queer?
D: Well, I’m in favor of it because of the effect it’s had on the community. It’s helped create a more inclusive vision of alternative gender and sexuality, because it’s always going to be complicated and messy to define the boundaries. This is the space where we don’t say who’s queer or not queer enough. And that usage really rose with Queer Nation, and I had a really positive experience of that, seeing the breakthrough from where any kind of queerness, even being just traditionally straight looking gay or something like that was this huge thing that you had to hide, to where we are today. A lot of sea change happened in the 90’s, spearheaded by Queer Nation. So it was a big thing, and because I knew I wasn’t gay, even though a lot of people thought that since I’m a misfit I must be gay back in high school, gay or straight, right?
K: Isle of the misfit toys.
D: No, some other sort, um and, but I knew I wasn’t straight…
K: But trans women are not just super effeminate homosexuals? (sarcastically)
D: No, no. There is of course a blurry boundary in there, there’s someone who’s super effeminate whose kind of wondering “Maybe I really would rather be a trans woman, or wouldn’t I, or damn I’m not quite sure” who’s right on that knife edge of definition, you know, so that’s why I favor inclusion and not being over strict about these definitions. But yes, there is a difference there, if you say you’re a gay man, you’re not a trans woman.
D: Seems obvious enough to us, yeah.
K: You know, as we’ve stated on this show numerous times, gender identity and sexual orientation are two very very different trajectories.
D: Yeah, and in terms of my sexual orientation, I say pansexual, but there’s really one kind of human I’m not interested in dating I would describe as “straight people.” By that I don’t mean necessarily heterosexual and cisgender. I could date someone heterosexual and cisgendered, but people who buy into the patriarchal cultural norms, who see me as lesser, who will think that it’s somehow OK to be violent to people if they violate those norms. No, won’t date someone like that.
K: Well, that seems like…
D: I’ll quietly disappear and not talk to them anymore if I start hearing that sort of stuff.
K: Sounds like self preservation.
K: You know, just as we’re winding down the last couple minutes here before we enter our news hour, so you have any words. If you could speak to somebody who’s listening to this show, who is questioning their gender identity, who questioning their sexual orientation, who might be at a point of trouble or misunderstanding or trying to find themselves, what would you say to them?
D: Hang in there. We’re out there for you. Find friends, find support. I survived the decades, it was really difficult, and I had to get lucky too. I want you all also to survive. I want those of you who have trans people in your families, who know trans people, to make that extra effort to include us all in your circle of love and compassion, if you have such a thing in your life, which I hope we all do. We should. And for people to remember we’re just people after all. So all of you out there who are troubled about gender, please be good to yourself, seek help, seek support. When it’s being difficult, hang in there. Believe us, it’s worth it. I survived a lot to get here, and I don’t regret that at all.
I also wanted to read on this show the words of a trans activist Latina woman from Puebla, in Mexico. I found her picture and her words in 2012 when I was on the verge of transition, when I was struggling, and there was at once the inspiration of her words, and horror of knowing she was already dead by the time I saw them, and that’s why her picture was on the internet. I will read to you first in Spanish, and then in English.
K: I’m you know, I don’t want this to get cut off here. Let’s do this again after the hour here.
(hourly station break)
K: We’re just picking up where we left off here. (Show announcements) OK, so you were going to read a note from a trans woman in Mexico, both English and Spanish.
D: Yes, this was a trans woman whose face I saw among the trans dead, who I see all too often in my feed, whose words were inspirational to me, and I hope will inspire others. She was from around Puebla in Mexico, her name was Agnes Torres Hernández, and her words were, in Spanish:
“Mi sueño es vivir en una cultura mejor, una donde la hospitalidad y el respeto sean los valores principales. Cada mañana me levanto y hago mucho más que escribir, para que al siguiente día pueda despertar en mi propio sueño. Sólo falta saber ¿Qué harás tú para poder compartirlo?”
“My dream is to live in a better culture, one where hospitality and respect are the principal values. Each morning I rise, and I do much more than write, so that some day I can wake up in my own dream. Only I need to know, what are you going to do to share this dream?”
K: Whew! And that’s incredible, I mean it kind of really, you know, hits you to the core, like…
D: Mmm hmm, yeah, right away, seeing that in Spanish I was moved by the poetry.
D: And, Agnes, your dream has been broadcast from the top of Mount St. Helena, that is my power to share it.
K: Yes, absolutely, and you know, this radio station reaches a, you know, a Latino population of up to 1.5 million people, and I know a lot of you out there listening are like wondering what the heck this show is about. You know, queerness exists in every culture and everywhere on the planet, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer. And I’ve really wished that I could speak better Spanish. Creo que es posible que encontrar una persona que pueden hablar mejor. But I’m not going to embarrass myself anymore. So, really powerful. She’s no longer with us?
D: No, no, she was found dead, tortured on the roadside.
K: Oh my gosh.
D: Yeah, it was really horrible, and appeared to have some kind of element of “honor” killing, involving her supposedly boyfriend, which was just absolutely a horror. And that’s part of that patriarchy stuff that I say needs to be banished, which is also something that infects across cultures around the earth. That there’s no honor in that kind of “honor”, and violently forcing people to be a particular gender or behave in a particular way, that is not morality. There is a path of love that we can all follow, and I hope that her dream will come true, and I pray that her spirit will get to know that it did.
K: Really incredibly powerful. It’s about taking love and just extending it out to every other human being and my mind always goes back to, you know, the four agreements, be impeccable with your word, cause no harm to other people… and this person needlessly died. She needlessly died.
D: Yeah, she was a great loss, she was a brilliant woman who might have contributed a lot.
K: Yeah, you know, I can *feel* her speaking through those words, so I hope our listeners can feel it as well. And we’ll probably make that available.
D: I will, and I will provide you with links to her story.
K: Yeah, all this is available, we’ll make this available on the website TheQueerLife.org. So I want to jump right into the current events section of this show and go through, I’m going to go through all the current events that have kind of hit my gaze over the last couple weeks here, and then we’ll dive into sharing some of the articles specifically. Again, all these articles are available on TheQueerLife.org, this is episode 35, Diana Morningstar, trans radical feminist.
(Reads list of articles with summaries)
I do want to play a couple minutes of a small piece. Mandi was on HuffPost Live earlier today, “Judge Orders Prison to Pay for Gender Surgery.” So I just want to play a couple moments of that, we’re going to discuss it just for a moment there and go on to the rest of this topic, and you are listening to The Queer Life radio show, LGBT news, modern perspectives, round table discussions, and interviews. Again this article here you’re going to hear is “Judge Orders Prison to Pay for Gender Surgery.” So…
(plays introduction to HuffPost segment)
Anyhow, that is actually a 25 minute long piece there, and they go fairly in depth into the different intricacies of, you know, what it means, a prison to pay for gender reassignment surgery. I mean, first off, Diana, what are your thoughts about that?
D: Well I think it’s a positive and necessary step, and I understand there’s a lot of stigma in being a prisoner, and some prisoners are indeed people who we might not necessarily like, or who have really done some bad things. I don’t we should ever ration basic food, water, health care, and shelter based on those kinds of criteria. I think we should be humane to everyone, and that includes adequate medical care. And we as trans people know that adequate medical care includes finding, finally, a way to be at peace with our gender and ourselves, and so I totally support that.
K: What would you say to somebody, you know, on the outside, who’s not in prison, who’s unable to gain access to medical care to get gender reassignment surgery, who’s seeking that?
D: I would say that this is part of the step in securing access to these treatments as a human right, as it already is in Argentina. Argentina that had a U.S. sponsored military dictatorship within my living memory now leads us in trans rights. And that yes, it’s unfair. That’s wrong is that the people on the outside are being denied it on the basis of poverty. Class and poverty are part of that patriarchal oppression matrix again. So that’s what’s wrong, that’s what needs to change. Yes, some people that most anyone might think of as kind of quote “undeserving” are going to get served by this law. That’s the nature of it. We don’t sort out who’s deserving or not.
K: I mean, it’s an interesting idea, you know, all of us deserving that equal human right, no matter what mistakes we’ve made, and you know, that in and of itself makes a whole lot of sense to me. You know, but then, I’m like well inside my head there’s ringing the idea “Well, what about the rest of us out here who didn’t, you know like, end up in prison?” And it’s if, yeah, but then the other part that strikes me is that we can’t choose the order in which all these things happen.
D: No we can’t. We have to just accept it when we can on that. No, some of the people who get the treatments will not be poster children.
D: They shouldn’t have to be to be entitled to basic freedom and dignity…
D: …and humanity and compassion.
K: That’s, it’s a really interesting subject, and if you have any voice to, you know, contribute to this, feel free to tweet us at #TheQueerLife if you think that prisoners should be given access to gender reassignment surgery. You could even give us a call if you think that prisoners, if you think that your tax dollars should be going toward giving prisoners gender reassignment surgery, and that’s a whole part of the conversation here.
An article that I want to bring up next here is the – what’s going on in Indiana right now is the Religious Freedom Reform Act, and the Religious Freedom Reform Act is one that talks about basically allowing businesses, on the basis of religion, to refuse service to individuals based upon their religious beliefs. And how this has really sprung up and the LGBT community is like, “Wait, this affects us.” And it posits that anybody, and business can say “Hey, well I don’t want to photograph your gay wedding” or “I don’t want to cater pizza to your gay wedding.” Which is actually another subject that has come up here. And the response has been really, really incredible. From corporations, and you know, from support groups out there, and so just, I want to talk about, you know, what’s going on. And you know, there’s the article here from the Daily Beast, “Gay Money is No Good in Indiana”, even what’s his name, you know, from SalesForce, he said we don’t want to have our business going to Indiana, so Indiana is taking a pretty big hit from major tech companies at least. And I want to pull up the article here, San Francisco. OK, here we go: (reads article) So this is another example of, you know, the Religious Freedom Reform Act causing businesses to be like “Hey, this is not good business sense for us. You know what about all our gay constituents, our gay employees, our gay customers?” And what are your thoughts on this?
D: Well, I think the whole law is ill advised and reprehensible, and I reject the so-called morality on which it is based. I do support genuine religious freedom. I don’t support the hypocritical abuse of the phrase to further bigotry. Indiana has made itself a target. The problem is a lot more widespread than Indiana, a lot more widespread than one particular pizzeria, but the message does need to get across, that no, we’re not just going to stand aside silently and let this sort of thing happen and go unnoted. The reason they’re passing these laws now is that the old norms, in which treating us like that was just what happened all the time, so they didn’t have to have a law about it. They’re encountering resistance, so they want a law to preserve their right to harass and discriminate.
K: You know this is a, you know, you’re right, it’s not just happening in Indiana. A couple of episodes ago I reported on four other states which are putting in anti LGBT laws that have passed senate, or passed house, and what’s equally disconcerting is that a lot of what we have had as far as political reform, legal reform, is, has been executive order and…
D: Yes it is. That makes, especially for those of us who are trans, the outcome of the next presidential election pretty important to us. Without getting into any specifics of candidates or politics, but we have this situation where we have an administration that has made executive orders in our favor. The Justice Department has chosen to interpret Title IX as meaning trans inclusion. And if somebody who didn’t feel that way about us were to sweep into the presidency, unilaterally a president can undo all that.
K: Whew! That’s pretty frightening, so everybody, you know, just educate yourself and arm yourselves with knowledge. San Francisco is not that far away from us. We here in Santa Rosa about an hour north of San Francisco. This is Kelli Busey on PlanetTransgender.com “Corporations follow suit as San Francisco mayor bans city funded travel to Indiana” They show a picture here of the signing of the RFRA, the Religious Freedom Reform Act. “Standing shoulder to shoulder behind Indiana governor Mike Pence as he signs he RFRA, are the leaders of the American Family Association and Advance America. Media was not allowed to attend.” (reads story) Diana, this is, you know, pretty big. The other part of this here is San Francisco has mayor Edwin Lee put a ban on city paid travel to Indiana. I mean, obviously San Francisco is a very gay friendly city, queer friendly city.
D: Yeah so, it’s of course no surprise that San Francisco would make a choice like that and announce it with much fanfare. As you’re reading about the possible discrimination, something that concerns me is that it opens the door to discrimination between religions, refusal of service to someone for being a Muslim or a Jew, and I absolutely can’t support that. You know, not even Scientologists should be getting thrown out of places just for being Scientologists or something. Even if I firmly disagree with a faith, there’s no way I can say that’s how they should be treated. That’s wrong.
K: Absolutely, and vice versa, no Scientologist should say “I don’t want you in here, because you’re a Christian” you know…
K: And so it’s, to use a term that’s often used against us, it’s a slippery slope to kind of, to use discrimination to, it’s basically, it is a discrimination bill. It’s allowing businesses to discriminate based upon their own beliefs instead of, we’re all human beings, and we’re all, you know, we’re all a part of this community and, you know, whatever happened to the idea of money is money? You know it’s from a business standpoint. It’s pretty incredible here, I want to, I mean how, it seems to me, the wording they’re using in this article is just symbolic. What do you think of San Francisco’s mayor, Edwin Lee, is trying to say in banning travel. Do you think that’s something that can be picked up elsewhere?
D: Yeah, I think it was just part of, trying to be part of creating a greater snowball effect, which is in fact happening. That of course, just San Francisco by itself isn’t going to cause Indiana to reconsider, but there are a few different corporations and governments that, including say for example the state of Connecticut that I know about, that are passing measures or making announcements. Really putting that in the crosshairs and saying “Hey, wait a minute, this isn’t OK.” And this is one of the ways that, really, the queer revolution that starts with Queer Nation is really, has gained traction, and that the work of activists over the years has added up, that there were times when nobody would stand up for us, I remember them well enough.
K: (laughs)We’ve definitely reached a different time where, you know, the fact that we have a platform, and that laws are being passed, or passed against us, shows, is a testament to our visibility. So, pretty incredible stuff.
I want to jump here to the next article from Naith Payton, Pink News, “Indiana Religious Freedom Law Updated to Protect LGBT People” (reads article) So it’s changing it so that they can’t necessarily refuse to provide services, or facilities, to any one of these, but at the same time they’re being allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion, it’s kind of a contradictory…
D: Yeah, they’re basically backpedalling, covering their ass, waffling and equivocating. Now that they’re under pressure…
K: I mean it’s like, it’s a little confusing, can they discriminate on the basis of religion, or can they not?
D: I think it is, and I think that the pressure has worked, people are paying attention.
K: Yeah, I mean, I mean obviously the community response from the LGBT communities has become powerful enough to force them to change this. Obviously, the American Family Association is not happy as that changes. It’s less blatant. It’s a little more confusing, which, again, is not the best thing, but…
D: They’d like us to believe that somehow we’re damaging to families, when actually what’s damaging to a family some child is so oppressed that life becomes a misery, that’s what’s the problem, that’s anti family.
K: Absolutely, OK, we’re going to continue talking about this after a couple of words from our sponsors…
K: We were just talking about all the new sweeping current events in Indiana, and all that that entails, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, allowing businesses to discriminate on the basis of religion, allowing them to say, refuse to do services at a gay wedding, like cater a gay wedding, or do photography at a gay wedding, or anything that involves the “gay agenda.” I’m speaking a little bit sarcastically here. But, I mean, and they recently added this portion that says that they can’t discriminate, or refuse services. So it’s back and forth, and kind of like a, I mean, but it’s still a dangerous bill because it allows certain judges and certain – It ends up being discretion at that point, how somebody will interpret the law.
D: Yes it does. And no, I don’t feel confident about the intent behind it, I think it, as I mentioned, is really there to prop up a bigoted status quo, and I think we can instead become better as a society instead, all of us.
K: Whew! Oh man, next portion here is by Amar Toor, TheVerge.com, “Indiana Pizzeria Raises $500,000 After Saying it Wouldn’t Cater a Gay Wedding.” (reads article) And so on and so forth. I actually checked out the website that, the GoFundMe page for this pizzeria, Memories Pizza, and I checked a couple hours ago before getting ready for the show and it says $700,000. I’m looking at it again right now, $842,000.
D: Mmm hmm, I think we’re seeing a backlash to a backlash to a backlash here out of that. That this one pizzeria suddenly ends up in the crosshairs of a lot of stored up anger and emotion that many of us have felt through years of oppression and ill use by straight society, and I think that what’s come down on them is disproportionate to their portion of the problem, that it’s really just a symptom of a larger cultural issue, and hence since so much of that anger got directed at this one little target, there was sympathy generated for them.
K: Right, almost sort of a, I just, you know, it blows my mind that that this amount of money is like coming in to this small pizza place. I’m sure they don’t pull $800,000 a year.
D: No, they won’t have to worry about money for a little while.
K: A little while.
D: And, you know, personally I’m pretty detached from how their particular story turns out, only I of course would love it if they would speak up for better values instead of behaving that way, but I can’t control that, and revenge on anybody or anything is a waste of time.
K: Right. An eye for an eye, right?
D: No, not interested that, so I’m more interested in seeing these cultural problems ended, and greater love and acceptance for everyone, than in punishing people for not getting there soon enough.
K: I mean, it’s just, it’s having a backlash, you know, all the negative reviews on Yelp and everything, I mean yeah that’s – and a lot of them were probably generated from outside the area. Honestly, and all this social media stuff too. You know, how do we be constructive when so many people are being destructive with their words, that’s the question here.
D: We can only do what we can as individuals now, and no, there was no keeping that herd from stampeding once the target was presented. And I understand, I have experienced that anger, that passion. We’ve been through hell, some of us.
K: You know, part of me is worried that a lot of the quote unquote right wing, the Fox news blaring kind of voices out there are going to be resonating with this and saying it’s like be careful for the gay agenda, you know.
D: Yeah, oh they’ll totally cast it as some sort of hate and oppression being directed at…
K: At them.
D: Yeah, at Indiana, at the pizzeria, and in a few case of extreme foaming at the mouth people who happen to be on our side, they may even be kind of right, but I still see the justice in our inclusion, and in our freedom and dignity of course, even if not everyone who is on our side is completely noble.
K: Yeah, I mean imagine if every single discriminatory, religious based statement yielded $800,000? I seem to be in the wrong business.
K: I mean it’s, I look at this radio station, KBBF, and you know the kind of money it needs just basically run. This is an entirely volunteer operated organization that’s doing a lot of constructive inclusion. The fact that they have this show, The Queer Life Radio Show on this station is incredible and open, which is a constructive, I believe, progression for this radio station. I’m grateful for this station’s openness. Having my voice and the voices I’ve brought on here, and your voice, you know.
D: Absolutely. Yes, justice for us is social justice.
K: But you know, it just kills me a little bit, I imagine what this station could do with $800,000, in creating good will, you know. I hope that this pizza restaurant will use that money for good will, but on the basis of their statements, I’m afraid to say I’m assuming that not.
D: Mmm hmm.
K: But again, you don’t know how things are going to turn out. But that’s all going on in Indiana right now. And the rest of the nation is being affected. We all reverberate through the power of communication and technology.
What I want to bring up now is about, I kind of want to change gears here and I want to talk about intersex. And a lot of people don’t know what intersex is, or people who have intersex conditions. And for those people that don’t know there are over 250 forms of intersex condition born in babies, and I forget what the statistic is, but it’s like every 30,000 or something like that, you know, babies are born with some form of intersex condition, or 1 in 30,000. I’m going to backpedal on that number because I don’t know what I’m talking about. But it’s not necessarily ambiguous genitalia, being born with a partial penis, or being born with a partial vagina. Whatever, traditionally what’s happened is doctors will make decisions to do genital surgery at the time of birth. You know, if they’re only born with partial penis, they will remove it and create a vagina and inform the parents that they need to be giving this child hormone replacement therapy. Malta, this is from Naith Payton on PinkNews.co.uk, “Malta Becomes the First Country to Outlaw Surgery on Intersex Babies” (reads story) “…without the consent of the minor” Babies can’t talk, remember? (finishes story) This is pretty incredible, I mean it kind of hits me, the first country to outlaw surgery on intersex babies, I mean just logically speaking, the idea of performing surgery on babies, unless it’s medically necessary, seems kind of dangerous.
D: I totally agree, and this is a reflection of that gender binary we were talking about earlier, that there are only two genders, therefore you must be one or the other and if you’re not, they’ll just make you fit.
K: Man, that’s absolutely right, it is a reflection of the gender binary. So, so your baby is born with ambiguous genitalia, partial penis and a partial vagina, or a penis and a partially formed vagina, or a vagina and a partially formed penis, or kind of a mix of the both.
D: There’s a lot of different things that might happen, yeah, that there are a number of development patterns that might occur, and these are real people too, even if you don’t get to say it’s a boy or a girl right away you can still regard this person as a real person and give them the chance to grow up and decide, find out how they feel, because there have been some real nightmares, kids that have grown up and discovered that not only do they feel like they are the wrong gender, but they had in fact been forced to be this wrong gender and that that’s pretty much irreversible.
K: If you actually go into TheQueerLife.org and check out our previous episodes, we interviewed Scott Parkhurst, intersex man, and his story is actually pretty incredible. From age zero to seven, you know he was born with a partial vagina underneath his penis, and his biological father opted for him to keep his penis, when the doctors wanted to surgically remove the penis, to make the child more of what we refer to as genitalnormaty. And after being raised male, Scott had both his parents killed in an accident by a drunk driver. Please don’t drink and drive. And he was adopted by a new set of parents and the mother wanted to have a daughter, and forced him to go on hormone replacement therapy. And as result, he underwent something a lot of us trans women and trans men can truly feel: being forced to go through a puberty that you don’t feel that you were intended to go through. And so this idea that we have to correct our children, that we know what’s best for our children before even asking them, it’s, I’m just going to say it, it’s wrong, you know. There’s plenty of occasions where you can talk to a child, and I’ve played numerous audio segments on this show of children speaking about their gender identity, and about how they feel, and how they feel about femininity, about masculinity, and how society and culture dictates how they should be. What does it mean to be manly? What does it mean to be girly? I’ve actually played some things where little kids are like, “Well, you know, girly means, you know manly means you’re not being a sissy, and that you’re doing tough things, and blah blah blah. And girly is like, you know, what does “run like a girl” mean? The video showed girls running like flailing their arms and such, and these kids, they observe what we as adults teach them. Do you think it always has to be like this?
D: No, I don’t think it does. I think we can, again, adjust our cultural norms into something healthier, more inclusive, that part of what concerns me there, is not only the distinction between the masculine and feminine, but then there is the denigration of the feminine, that what’s feminine is inferior, is frivolous, is lesser, is more contrived, more manipulative, and etc., all these things that get ladled on to that. And yet here I am, having had access to all the privileges of guydom and all that, and I’m being feminine. I choose this, and no, it doesn’t make me less.
K: Right, although many people will believe that it does make you less than. I know from my own experience, doing the kind of work that I have, a tech business, websites, and I go to people’s houses, and I fix their computers and stuff like that. And I have the unique opportunity of having that male privilege when I start my business, and the way that I notice being, the way that people respond to the information I give them, or the service that I give them, it’s very different from how I was treated before, when in fact, now I’m even better at what I do. I have a greater knowledge, and a better skill set. And, I mean, have you noticed this in terms of, because it’s very, you know we have an interesting perspective, being able to from the perspective of having had quote unquote male privilege, and then, you know, sort of, removing it, or to a degree removing it.
D: Mmm hmm, yeah, I have experienced some of that. Thankfully, for my work I’m still at the same job I had before, and they’ve handed it pretty well, so that hasn’t been in particular an issue, though I am concerned should I find myself back out on the job market.
K: I mean, the joblessness rate for trans women is 90%.
D: It’s pretty big, yeah.
K: And it’s not because we’re lazy.
D: No, no, or weak, or any of those other silly myths about us. Straight society sometimes thinks of either very effeminate gays, or trans women as “failed men” somehow.
K: Failed men. What do you think they mean by “failed men”?
D: That you couldn’t live up to the requirements of machoness, which is totally false. You can certainly look at examples of trans women who joined the military and did just fine, all while trying to hypermasculinize and deny. Thankfully I did not do that.
D: I did enough harm as it is trying to be a guy, when I shouldn’t have bothered.
K: Right. Kristen Beck, former US Navy SEAL of SEAL team 6, part of the team that took down Osama Bin Laden, came out as trans, and she’s been doing a lot of work out there, being visible, and you know, even the cohost of the show, Mandi, she, a correctional officer at San Quentin, pretty rough place, and her story is available online. Even in my own experience, of being a martial artist, I’ve been in the ring, and I’ve won. And I wasn’t a quote unquote sissy, you know.
D: Yeah. No, that has nothing to do with it. You have to be pretty fierce to survive transition actually.
K: Yeah, and for a lot of us, it’s, you know, there are a lot of us who, but we’re all different people, we all come from different backgrounds, we all come from different trajectories, and you know, some of us did start out as effeminate gay boys, and went through that route, and some of us, you know, started out as “tough” straight guys doing guy things, you know, dudeliness and manliness and you know, hair on your chest and stuff like that. I know that I tried to participate in that as well, and you know, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s acting.
D: Yeah. No, it all just comes down to who we really are, ourselves.
K: So we have a couple minutes left here, and wow these two hours always go by very very fast. Do you have any last words for our audience? Anything that you want to leave our listeners with?
D: Yes, I spoke before about this thing called patriarchy, that system of violence and oppression and limitation that really affects us all, that I think everybody in the world would be better off without, and it’s not something we’re stuck with forever. It can change. It can be made visible and changed. And as Ursula Le Guin said about capitalism, she said it was like the divine right of kings, something that seems eternal and all pervasive, and yet someday could be swept away. I say the same about patriarchy, and all that it encompasses, that we can liberate ourselves, and that we don’t have to live in a world in which oppression is commonplace, in which coercion and violence are used for social control, and I want you all out there to find the love in your heart, to follow that path, and be compassionate toward others.
K: Absolutely, and beautifully said. Diana Morningstar, thank you so much for joining us this evening.
Video and podcast of the interview:
Gender and Transgender in Modern Paganism
An anthology of writings about conflict with trans exclusionists in the modern Pagan community.
The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto
Important early statement that begins the pushback against trans exclusionists, and breaks the silence around trans women’s issues.
Transgender History by Susan Stryker
Essential background information, including the story of how the conflict between trans women and parts of the women’s community arose.
About Agnes Torres Hernández
Planetransgender: A Year Has Passed Since Mexican Trans Activist Agnes Torres’ Murder And Still No Justice
El Pais: Agnes, el sueño asesinado
Spanish language news blog, her story is at the bottom of the page
La importancia de mantener viva la memoria de Torres Hernández
Sex Redefined: Nature journal sceintific commentary on intersex
Ursula K. Le Guin accepts the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters
Ursula Le Guin’s memorable speech that I refer to at the end of the show