We are dying without you.

If this post has an impact on you, show cis friends on your social networks and ask them to join the Trans March!

Cis Torontonians, especially if you love Pride Week, grab a chair.

We need you.

This Friday, June 28th, 6:00 p.m., at Norman Jewison Park, hundreds of Toronto’s residents who are trans and gender-non-conforming (GNC) — a population estimated in the thousands — are marching for our very lives, and for lives like ours lost to depression, sexual violence, social ostracism, suicide, and murder.

Trans people are marching for basic human rights you rarely need to think about when you’re cis.

If you believe in making the lives of people who are trans a far better experience than the way things have been, and if you believe that we deserve no less the opportunities and quality of living than what you deserve as a cis person, then we need you to come to the Trans March and march alongside Torontonians who are trans and GNC.

Please don’t be a bystander. We need you with us.

March alongside us as our supporters, advocates, and safeguards. It’s the only way we can know you have our backs. It’s the only way we can know who you, the people we hope to call our allies, are.

Help us be heard, respected, and even celebrated. Help to lift us up. Help us to amplify our voices. Help us to survive, even thrive.

Start by joining us on the Trans March. Why?

Besides a great way to kick off your Pride weekend, here are a few good reasons.

Much of the cis lesbian and gay community at Pride will ignore us.

Unfortunately, too many cis lesbian and gay Torontonians will treat the Trans March as something inconsequential. Even one is too many.

Some will laugh at us. Some, like in 2012, will walk right across the March’s path disrespectfully as if we aren’t there. Some will be openly derisive.

Such cis lesbian and gay people have helped to continue a dark history of when Toronto’s cis heterosexual people treated them the same way: disrespectfully. They have turned to the master’s tools. They perpetuate hostility toward people who are trans — especially if we’re viewed as visibly trans.

Why else must we march?

We must march to end cissexism, transmisogyny, gendered essentialism, cisnormativity, transinvidia, cis-supremacist groups, and yes, garden-variety transphobia.

Our bodies and lives, and the decisions we make for them, are regulated heavily through no volition or consent of our own.

We want basic healthcare access without prejudice.

We want this access without having to “prove” to cis people that we’re “legitimate.” We want access to healthcare without having to wait months, even years before it’s given to us begrudgingly.

We want agency over our bodies, our lives, and our health. We want this agency on our terms. We don’t want to be infantilized by cissexist caregiving gatekeepers at CAMH or made to wait for almost a year at Sherbourne.

Like the struggle for abortion rights under the guidance of Dr. Morgentaler, we want unobstructed access to reproductive (endocrine) medicine, if we so choose, for our bodies and our selves.

We want equity, enfranchisement, and personal safety which only cis people have been permitted to have.

We want to be free from discrimination or preferential exclusion in employment, housing, and social services in ways which cis people don’t have to deal with.

We don’t want to be denied access to rape crisis services, gynaecological services, or emergency shelters because of our being trans or GNC.

We don’t want to placed in mortal danger by cis people who first misgender us and point us improperly to gendered shelter services, gendered washroom facilities, or even gendered incarceration by the police.

Most of all, we want respect.

Trans and GNC people are marching because we must. Our existence depends on it.

photo: luxomedia

photo: luxomedia

But many more of us cannot march.

That’s why we need for you to march beside us, to support making Toronto and Canada safer for people who are trans and GNC, who cannot join us.

Who are they?

They are trans people who are not out to themselves or their loved ones, for fear of losing everyone and everything.

They are trans people who are afraid of their parents and their classmates.

They are trans people whose intersectional barriers — as persons of colour, as persons with disabilities, as immigrants, as persons with a mental illness — have denied them the voice to speak for themselves and be respected by the wider trans community.

They are trans people who feel intimidated by a trans community which is steered by the same few faces who don’t experience those intersectional barriers. They are faces who seldom pause to step aside to let those with one or more of those barriers to lead community narratives and policy making.

They are trans people who cannot safely disclose themselves as trans to their friends, co-workers, or colleagues, for fear it will destroy their lives.

They are trans people who were treated hostilely and feel unwelcome in Toronto’s cis lesbian and gay community.

They are trans people who have been violated, picked apart, and even stalked by “men’s rights activists” and “rad fems.”

They are trans people whose life experiences are mythologized and objectified by both cis and trans people, because they are placed routinely by cis people as cis.

They are trans people whose bodies are intersex and have been made to feel shame for this.

They are trans people who have been hurt so badly by cis people’s violence, abuse, and prejudice, that they have become shut-ins, isolated from the social lifeblood which enriches the human experience.

They are trans people who are homeless, whose first priority is to find a meal and a place to sleep.

They are trans people who will be preparing for survival work for the Friday night shift instead of going to the march.

We will march with urgency.

We will march on cisnormative streets. The whole city, even Church Wellesley Village, is a cisnormative place which prohibits trans people to carve out a space all our own.

Cis people who enforce these spaces, like Toronto police and BIAs, haven’t left us alone.

That’s what the Trans March is for.

For a couple of hours, we choose to march where we will. For a couple of hours, we march to carve a space for ourselves. For a couple of hours, the path we choose is our own. As our supporters, you can walk beside us and see where it takes us!

Come to Pride with a sense of purpose.

Join us for the Trans March.

Our lives depend on having you by our side.

photo: Jere Keys

photo: Jere Keys

featured image by Kaitlyn Tikkun


A survey answer.

Recently the 519 Church Street Community Centre hosted an open poll on how to improve the Church Wellesley Village. The survey was coincident with the Jane’s Walks of 2013 which meandered through the Village — including one led by the founder of Jane’s Walk, Jane Farrow.

Survey feedback would, ideally, help to improve community and planning preparations for World Pride 2014, the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area, and other initiatives to keep the Village relevant as a queer enclave within Toronto. The survey was concluded on 5 May 2013.

Most questions were bubble-style, “pick one” responses. One question invited survey participants to describe what they think would improve the Village. This is one answer that was given.

Q: “Thinking ahead the next few years, what is the one most important thing that you would like to see improve in the neighbourhood?”

A: A structural improvement.

The social homogeneity of the Village has experienced a growing revanchism, especially in recent years as personal capital has stabilized the economic trajectory of the Village. This revanchism is an imposition of cisnormativity.

Cisnormativity is a tacit vision which ennobles residents, guests, and proprietors who are cis at the substantive penalty of residents, guests, and citizens who are placed — or voice themselves openly — as trans. Cisnormativity produces a persistent climate of hostility which poisons the joie de vivre to which many Torontonians would hope the Village might one day aspire, as their cultural memory once remembers during The Steps era.

The subset of this cisnormative environment, homonormativity, expresses as an intolerant resistance to intersectional life experiences — particularly when an individual is not white, not cis, and not a gay man.

This is not new, nor is it news. It is a chronic anaemia. Poor lifeblood subtracts from the Village’s cultural and social enrichment potential for the trade-off of a gay fiction — in which the Village, formerly The Track, came into being only because cis gay men, most of them white, rioted in 1981.

This anaemia forecloses on tacit municipal planning decisions made between the 1950s and the 1980s, which corralled together cis lesbian women from Bay Street and Yorkville, and cis gay men from The Track.

The Village is the Village we came to know because gender and sexual minority (GSM)-marginalized Torontonians took that corralling and turned it around as a queer locus of resistance to a deeply heteronormative social culture. (Heteronormativity is also a subset of cisnormativity.) Still, many GSMs have never been made to feel welcome as equal participants inside the Village.

What I’d like to see is a policy-based approach to the curtailment and discouragement of such intersectional territoriality within the CWV. This includes the review of cisnormativity in secondary planning decisions, event planning strategies, and commercial growth objectives.

[Disclosure: I share the above as a lesbian woman who is trans. I’m also an urban planner.]

10 dead trans women* in Toronto.

Bluestockings31: wherever you are, here’s a report card.

Below are ten known trans people in Toronto who either were murdered or coerced to suicide (after access to endocrine care was withheld by alleged caregiving institutions — a medical malpractice known increasingly as cisnormative gatekeeping).

Each story summarizes how Toronto’s cis journalists reported on their deaths, bodies, and narratives. Years between 1978 to 2003 are reviewed. There is cissexism, misogyny, trans misogyny, and professional neglect in every report. Several of the journalists are still well-known.

* Every victim was a woman, or else they voiced themselves with feminine articulations of gender at the time they were murdered. All were coercively assigned male at birth (or “CAMAB”).


CASSANDRA DO: murdered, 2003

Who? Cassandra Do, a 32-year-old trans woman of colour (Vietnamese-Canadian)
When? 25 August 2003
Where? At her home, on Gloucester Street (Church Wellesley Village)
How? Manually strangulated, in her bathtub.
Did they find her killer? Unknown. The Toronto Police Service described the suspect as a (cis) man in his thirties, 6’2″, 230#, muscular, with close-shaved hair and no facial hair. DNA evidence was collected at the crime scene. A suspect matching the description was wanted for the murder of another Vietnamese-Canadian sex worker, a cis woman, murdered six weeks after Do.

What did the press say about Cassandra? In one lede, the journalist described her as a “transsexual prostitute”, not a woman whose job was sex work. The story added how she was “a male-to-female transsexual” (a label, not a description) and “who lived as a woman” (not a woman).

Reporters printed the vocational name she used with clients. One article added how Ms. Do worked in nursing before moving to sex work, but not before calling her “a transsexual” (the subtext: that having a transsexual body was an activity, a vocation).

Every journalist who reported on Ms. Do stressed (repetitively within the same article) how she had not completed or sought genital surgery. Very little in the way of confronting violence against women, or more information about the suspect’s MO, was discussed. No information on how to contact police with tips was printed.

All articles did, however, describe her with feminine pronouns exclusively — a first for reporting on murdered trans women in Toronto.

Ms. Do is the last known trans person to be murdered in Toronto.

The take. Journalists fabricated a narrative on morality which could try to explain how Ms. Do probably brought this death on herself, because she was a woman of colour, trans, and had earned her living from sex work — throwing away a more “acceptable” nursing career (which she could have done if only she were a cis man). If only.

Sources: [1] Heath-Rawlings, Jordan. 2003. Prostitute strangled, police say. The Globe and Mail, 27 August: p. A15. [2] Lee, Cynthia. 2003. Candlelight vigil held for woman. Toronto Star, 1 September: p. C7. [3] Leeder, Jessica. 2003. Prostitute found strangled to death in home. Toronto Star, 28 August: p. B3. [4] Valpy, Michael. 2003. Prostitutes could be target of killer: police. The Globe and Mail, 6 October: p. A9. [5] Verma, Sonia. 2003. Slain escort seen as protector. Toronto Star, 18 October: p. B1.

^ return to victims list

DEANNA WILKINSON: murdered, 1996

Who? Deanna Wilkinson, a 31-year-old white trans woman
When? 20 May 1996
Where? The laneway adjacent to 61 Homewood Avenue (Church Wellesley Village)
How? She was shot in the head at point-blank range (a Sturm Ruger .357 pistol loaded with hollow-pointed bullets).
Did they find her killer? Yes. His name was Marcello Palma.

What did the press say about Deanna? A lot. Several journalists reported on the case, but three columns by Rosie DiManno in particular treated the victims horrendously (and was apologetic for the murderer).

Ms. Wilkinson was one of three sex workers murdered on the night of Victoria Day, May 20th. A gender-non-conforming kid named Shawn Keegan, nicknamed Junior (see the next entry), was murdered minutes earlier on the same street Ms. Wilkinson was killed. A third sex worker, a cis woman named Brenda Ludgate, was murdered on King Street West.

All three murders made front-page headlines on May 22nd. This was the only time the murder of a trans woman (or a gender-non-conforming person) made the front page of a Toronto daily newspaper, probably because of the death toll and the killer’s whereabouts being unknown. The Toronto Star reported Ms. Wilkinson initially as “an unidentified transvestite prostitute in his [sic] late teens or early twenties.”

Despite reaching consensus that Ms. Wilkinson was a trans woman, the Toronto Star largely maintained the use of masculine pronouns and hid her name in parentheses or scare quotes (or not using it at all) — for instance, as “Thomas (Deanna) Wilkinson” or “Thomas ‘Deanna’ Wilkinson”. At times, she was only referred to as “Thomas” or “Tom”. Masculine pronouns were used, particularly at first. The extremely offensive T-word was used often.

The Globe and Mail did much the same. It developed a narrative in which trans people were a root cause problem, not intersectional marginalization:

“I think it’s going to happen sooner or later (that a transvestite [sic] would be killed because of) how people feel about these transvestites,” said Nick Thompson-Wood, owner of Homewood Inn bed-and-breakfast.

On May 29th, John Barber, writing for the Globe, wrote an analysis which referred to Ms. Wilkinson with the wrong name. Barber made an attempt to examine the root causes of prostitution with respect to both law and social resistance. Bruce DeMara (who reported on Grayce Baxter’s murder in 1992) and Moira Welsh quoted one person who referred to Ms. Wilkinson as “it” (without correcting the context). Other trans women were interviewed for the story, and masculine pronouns were used (likely without their consent).

Several reporters were brought into the story, including Jim Rankin (who, like DeMara, reported on Ms. Baxter’s murder). Rankin and Dale Brazao identified Ms. Wilkinson as “Thomas Wilkinson, a transsexual who went by the name ‘Deanna’,” adding later how she was “a male [sic] transsexual.” Brazao and Welsh, in a separate file, said, “his [sic] friends refused to believe that the 31-year-old transsexual taking hormones in preparation for a sex change and known as Deanna knew she was about to die” (note: feminine and masculine pronouns were used to describe her in the same passage).

Reporter Theresa Boyle was the first journalist to refer to Ms. Wilkinson with feminine pronouns. Reporter Paula Todd didn’t mince words about the intersectional barriers faced by trans sex workers: “Their wardrobe, their lifestyles, the grimy street coffin in which they drew their final breath: If there is a hierarchy of human expiration, they swung from its lowest rungs.”

On May 24th, Rosie DiManno’s lede set the tone she would slowly build on:

A homely hooker with a chronic substance abuse problem, a teenage boy who liked to dress up as a woman because he could make more money that way turning tricks, and a beautiful “pre-operative” transsexual who was one of the most established queens on the street.

She added: “It is, they say, as if the violence perpetrated against them is somehow sanctioned, not as obscene as the murder of teenage school girls abducted off the streets,” adding, “But, surely, it is a grievous insult to suggest that the rest of us have somehow contributed to these triple murders by not doing enough to embrace, to reinforce, gay rights or prostitutes’ rights.”

The lede on DiManno’s next column was worse:

They are twittery and exotic creatures, an exaggeration of femininity, all gloss and polish and seductive giggles. Sashaying down the street, too narrow hips rolling in gross imitation of a sexy siren’s wiggle. Long coltish legs. Spiky slingbacks click-clicking.

DiManno’s misogyny and cissexism here was unambiguous, as she described another trans woman who was a friend of Ms. Wilkinson:

She gestures toward her chest — almost flat, despite the deliberate postures she assumes of thrusting her ribs forward in imitation of breasts — and says: “I’m getting my top done.” She is almost wistful as she talks about this, becoming the woman she believes she is. So many transsexuals, unlike transvestites, have similar dreams. Rare is the creature who has actually had the sex-change. It is almost like a mantra, the way some women dream of Mr. Right.

On May 30th, after DiManno’s second column, the murderer — still not captured, had been identified as Marcello Palma. Reporters described Palma as a “hard-working family man” and “a nice guy”. DiManno’s column the following day painted Palma as a normative, upstanding citizen. She described the bucolic pleasantness of the Palma bungalow in Downsview: “everything tidy and precise… the smell of freshly mown grass” on a “street of house-proud addresses, all of them boasting fancy masonry and curlicue wrought-iron railings.” Then DiManno added: “A world away from the sex and sleaze of the Tranny Stroll in downtown Toronto.”

DiManno wondered aloud whether the people who lived on Palma’s street, whom she recognized as first- and second-generation Italian-Canadians, could “have heard that such a place exists in the city, where men dressed like women sell sexual favors [sic] to other men, not dressed like women. Such a tawdry universe would be as foreign to them as the moon.”

Palma was captured in Halifax shortly after DiManno’s third column. On a fourth and final column about the case, DiManno’s lede began with, “The cop works the edges of the scrum, cocking an ear towards the hefty hooker in the teensy-weensy skirt, cantilevered breasts overflowing the cups of her black bustier like freshly rising dough.”

Five years later, when he was tried in court, the Canadian Press lede revived the narrative of trans people and sex workers, as objects, killed by a respectable family guy: “Marcello Palma frequently fantasized that he would kill street prostitutes — whom he both despised and employed for his gratification. The married father transformed his sick dream into a terrifying reality when he shot three hookers within an hour on Victoria Day night 1996.”

The victims weren’t described as women, much less as feminine. They weren’t even described as human subjects.

The take. Rosie DiManno’s conduct reached well beyond a cissexist obliviousness by the many reporters who tracked the murders. She was especially conscious of her wording, which was mean-spirited, malicious, even bordering on libellous. DiManno, revealing her own internalized misogyny with respect to her leniency on violence against women, was especially forgiving for the man who, on the same night, murdered two women and a third person (who voiced themselves with a feminine articulation of gender at the time they were confronted by their killer). DiManno condemned Ms. Wilkinson, other trans women, and gender-non-conforming people through literary mockery for the very life experiences which marginalized them intersectionally: a cisnormative culture which gave the murderer the social benefit of doubt for nearly a week after his killing spree.

DiManno’s conduct, besides being unprofessional, is a very good example of the journalism that a trans person (trans women especially, given her intersectional barrier of womanhood) may expect if she’s forcibly disclosed by cis people. Irrespective of the topic, she can expect to be introduced not as a woman, but as a “trans(gender)” or “transgender woman” — even when the story doesn’t relate at all to her experiences of not being cis.

If a trans woman is dead, then journalistic best practices by cis journalists (which have changed very little from the 1990s) will try to label her with cissexist, even absurdist tropes to dispute, even erase her lived experiences. Tropes meant to delegitimize her — like “born a man”, “trapped in a man’s body”, “identify as a woman” and “lived as a woman” — are still used regularly by cis journalists. These dehumanize her and what she has endured. Each speak for how cis people objectify her body’s morphology, even put it on public trial.

This harsh, differential treatment, which does not happen when she is not disclosed as trans, invalidates her narrative and prescriptively labels her in ways which undermine her personhood. For this reason, many trans people don’t talk to cis people about the knowledge they have of being trans.

Sources: [1] Abbate, Gay and Silcoff, Sean. 1996. Policing increased after three slain: woman, two transvestites shot. The Globe and Mail, 23 May: p. A10. [2] Barber, John. 1996. Toronto murders reveal inconsistencies of prostitution law. The Globe and Mail, 29 May: p. A2. [3] Boyle, Theresa. 1996. Families stricken by slayings. Toronto Star, 23 May: p. A6. [4] Brazao, Dale and Rankin, Jim. 1996. Serial killer sought three prostitutes shot to death within three hours. Toronto Star, 23 May: p. A1. [5] Canadian Press. 2001. Judge convicts man for ‘executions’ of three Toronto prostitutes. Canadian Press, 20 April. [6] DeMara, Bruce and Welsh, Moira. 1996. Two transvestites gunned down: police fear killer may be stalking other prostitutes. Toronto Star, 22 May: p. A6. [7] DiManno, Rosie. 1996. Killer’s madness can’t be blamed on our attitude to gays. Toronto Star, 24 May: p. A7. [8] DiManno, Rosie. 1996. Shaken by slayings, street’s glittery sirens challenge the night. Toronto Star, 27 May: A7. [9] DiManno, Rosie. 1996. Neighbours stunned suspect in killings lives down the street. Toronto Star, 31 May: p. A7. [10] DiManno, Rosie. 1996. Unwritten things about 3 murders annoy and perplex. Toronto Star, 5 June 1996: p. A7. [11] Rankin, Jim and Goldhar, Kathleen. 1996. Suspect’s family was in turmoil: neighbours. Toronto Star, 30 May: p. A7. [12] Todd, Paula. 1996. Murders in hot zone don’t rip our hearts. Toronto Star, 27 May: p. A15. [13] Toronto Star. 1996. Transvestite murders spark fear of stalker. Toronto Star, 22 May: p. A1. [14] Welsh, Moira and Brazao, Dale. 1996. Victims all took to the streets, met brutal fate on same night. Toronto Star, 24 May: p. A4.

^ return to victims list

SHAWN “JUNIOR” KEEGAN: murdered, 1996

Who? Shawn Keegan (known as Junior), a 19-year-old white genderqueer person
When? 20 May 1996
Where? In front of 40 Homewood Avenue (Church Wellesley Village)
How? They were shot in the head, twice, at point-blank range (a Sturm Ruger .357 pistol loaded with hollow-pointed bullets).
Did they find their killer? Yes. His name was Marcello Palma.

What did the press say about Junior? They were treated by reporters in much the same way Deanna Wilkinson was, but with a bit more compassionate leniency not extended to her.

Journalists created a narrative for Keegan who — still a teenager and living with HIV — was trying to escape homelessness. They had been evicted from squatting in an abandoned house two weeks earlier and, shortly after, helped participate in a large civil protest against youth homelessness at Nathan Phillips Square. They were also a drag performer at Bar 501. Several of Keegan’s friends and co-workers were interviewed, including their partner who worked on stage. Reporters made note that Keegan was presenting themselves in a feminine capacity when they were shot to death.

There was evidence that Keegan was shot twice, despite the bullets being hollow-pointed (and highly destructive to soft tissue). They had managed to get back up after the first gunshot before being shot again. This attested, according to reporters, Keegan’s exceptional will to live — which meant getting out of sex work and homelessness as soon as they could. This was also set in contrast to Ms. Wilkinson’s and Ms. Ludgate’s separate struggles with fighting drug addiction. Doug Saunders of The Globe and Mail reported:

“He was just a kid, and he really wanted to be a performer,” said Joanne Amos, manager of Pembroke Residences, a low-rent rooming house where Mr. [sic] Keegan had briefly stayed. “I know for sure that he had only been on the stroll (selling his body) for three days.”

The take. The way Keegan was treated, relative to Ms. Ludgate and Ms. Wilkinson, was more forgiving. Several intersectional factors to this leniency could be involved (that Keegan wasn’t a woman was probably one, even as their articulated femininity was what made them a target, and their youthfulness may have been another). Also, Keegan’s acceptance by friends as gay was more palatable to a homonormative part of town. This, however, didn’t mean Keegan was treated with respect by cis journalists.

Sources: [1] Abbate, Gay and Silcoff, Sean. 1996. Policing increased after three slain: woman, two transvestites shot. The Globe and Mail, 23 May: p. A10. [2] Barber, John. 1996. Toronto murders reveal inconsistencies of prostitution law. The Globe and Mail, 29 May: p. A2. [3] Boyle, Theresa. 1996. Families stricken by slayings. Toronto Star, 23 May: p. A6. [4] Brazao, Dale and Rankin, Jim. 1996. Serial killer sought three prostitutes shot to death within three hours. Toronto Star, 23 May: p. A1. [5] Canadian Press. 2001. Judge convicts man for ‘executions’ of three Toronto prostitutes. Canadian Press, 20 April. [6] DeMara, Bruce and Welsh, Moira. 1996. Two transvestites gunned down: police fear killer may be stalking other prostitutes. Toronto Star, 22 May: p. A6. [7] DiManno, Rosie. 1996. Killer’s madness can’t be blamed on our attitude to gays. Toronto Star, 24 May: p. A7. [8] DiManno, Rosie. 1996. Shaken by slayings, street’s glittery sirens challenge the night. Toronto Star, 27 May: A7. [9] DiManno, Rosie. 1996. Neighbours stunned suspect in killings lives down the street. Toronto Star, 31 May: p. A7. [10] Rankin, Jim and Goldhar, Kathleen. 1996. Suspect’s family was in turmoil: neighbours. Toronto Star, 30 May: p. A7. [11] Saunders, Doug. Transvestites endure poverty, scorn: slayings rock outcast community. The Globe and Mail, 24 May: p. A1. [12] Todd, Paula. 1996. Murders in hot zone don’t rip our hearts. Toronto Star, 27 May: p. A15. [13] Toronto Star. 1996. Transvestite murders spark fear of stalker. Toronto Star, 22 May: p. A1. [14] Welsh, Moira and Brazao, Dale. 1996. Victims all took to the streets, met brutal fate on same night. Toronto Star, 24 May: p. A4.

^ return to victims list

GRAYCE BAXTER: murdered, 1992

Who? Grayce Elizabeth Baxter, a 26-year-old white trans woman
When? 8 December 1992
Where? At a client’s apartment, on Wynford Heights Crescent (North York)
How? She was strangled while at work. Her body was dismembered and dumped. Her remains, never found, are still buried in a garbage landfill in Pickering.
Did they find her killer? Yes. His name was Patrick Daniel Johnson, a corrections officer at the Don Jail.

What did the press say about Grayce? Several journalists reported on Ms. Baxter’s murder. As more reports were filed, journalists treated her womanhood with increasingly less validity. Her body’s morphological history and her quality of life was given more attention than her murderer’s violent behaviour and psychological profile.

Ms. Baxter, who lived near Yonge and Queens Quay, was reported missing December 22nd by the Toronto Star. Her car was found in a parking lot at Gerrard Square two weeks after she vanished. It was probably not yet known to journalists that Ms. Baxter was a woman who was trans, not cis.

The first news briefs, on the 22nd and 23rd, reported Ms. Baxter as a (cis) woman who worked as a “prostitute” and a “call girl”. Despite this, both articles sought to humanize her: “‘Her family and friends have not heard from her and this is unusual’,” adding how she “left her pet cat unattended.” They also reported how she was an “avid antique collector with a taste” for “expensive furniture”.

Everything changed with the third story, dated December 24th. Tony Wong’s lede and story ceased referring to her as a woman: “Missing Toronto prostitute Grayce Baxter is a transsexual who received a sex-change operation about seven years ago, police say.” This story marked when Ms. Baxter stopped being treated journalistically as someone and started being treated as something.

An expose by Michele Mandel attempted to put together a biography, but spent more effort investigating the history of her body and her experiences as a girl and, later, woman who was trans. Despite reporting that her parents had always supported her, Mandel attempted to reconcile her nurturing family with the implication that her being trans was socially deviant.

Jim Rankin wrote on Ms. Baxter’s alleged use of crack cocaine. This was contradicted by 52 Division police, which found no evidence to support the reporter’s hearsay. 52 Division’s statement was buried under Rankin’s lede. Rankin reported on Ms. Baxter’s body measurements — something reserved for suspects: “6-foot-tall, 160-pound … straight blonde hair and a sturdy build.”

The fourth article on Ms. Baxter by journalist Nick Pron, posted nine days after the first story, repeated the hearsay drug use allegations, alleging how Ms. Baxter may have run afoul of a dealer (this, despite 52 Division’s statement). Pron added how she worked as a professional dominatrix for wealthy businessmen. This article also printed her dead name — that is, the name assigned to her at birth which had long been vacated legally.

Ten days after Pron’s file, Lisa Wright reported that an arrest was made, yet waited until the final paragraph to disclose the suspect’s name. In between this and the lede, she added: “Grayce Baxter was born a male, Grant, and had a sex change operation seven years ago before starting a career as a call girl.”

Ms. Baxter was murdered by a member of law enforcement. His motive was not drug-related. It related to his own impotence: his purchased time with Ms. Baxter expired before he could climax. So he strangled her to death, cut her into pieces, and dumped the pieces down the apartment tower’s trash chute.

When he was sentenced, DeMara and Darroch’s lede objectified Ms. Baxter while humanizing her murderer: “A guilty plea has sent a young man to jail for 10 years and closed the file on Grayce Baxter, a transsexual prostitute whose dismembered body remains forever entombed in a Pickering landfill site.” (Compare with a lede which wasn’t used: “A guilty plea has sent a murderer to prison for 10 years, closing the file on Grayce Baxter, a young woman whose strangled and dismembered remains at a landfill have never been found.”) Also, this lede is in stark contrast to the first report filed on Ms. Baxter disappearance: “Metro police fear for missing woman.”

The take. Journalists believed Grayce Baxter was murdered because her body was transsexual and because she earned her living legally (but immorally). Her work afforded material benefits not expected of women, much less women who are trans: the quality of life conserved to white-collar professionals. (This is both misogyny and trans misogyny). More attention was directed to her material circumstances than to who she was as a young woman. In the end, her humanity was dispatched by journalists, much as her body was dispatched by her murderer.

Sources: [1] DeMara, Bruce and Darroch, Wendy. 1994. Guard gets life term for killing prostitute: transsexual’s dismembered body buried in Pickering dump. Toronto Star, 20 April: p. A8. [2] Mandel, Michele. 1992. Where is Grayce? Toronto Star, 27 December. [3] Pron, Nick. 1992. Police seek missing call girl’s customers. Toronto Star, 31 December: p. A6. [4] Rankin, Jim. 1992. Missing call girl had drug problem, pal says. Toronto Star, 29 December: p. A5. [5] Toronto Star. 1992. Metro police fear for missing woman. Toronto Star, 22 December: p. A7. [6] Wong, Tony. 1992. Police seek public’s aid to locate transsexual. Toronto Star, 24 December: p. A4. [7] Wright, Lisa. 1992. Police try to retrace call girl’s last two days. Toronto Star, 23 December: p. A7. [8] Wright, Lisa. 1993. Client of transsexual charged with murder. Toronto Star, 9 January: p. A20.

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LISA BRYANT: murdered, 1991

Who? Lisa Bryant, a 33-year-old white trans woman
When? 13 January 1991
Where? At her home, on Uxbridge Avenue near Davenport Road (Junction Triangle)
How? Her body was found in the doorway of a house set afire by an arsonist. She died of smoke inhalation.
Did they find her killer? Unknown.

What did the press say about Lisa? The article described Lisa as “a transvestite”. It used her assigned name at birth, then adding how she “went by the name of Lisa.” The article used masculine pronouns exclusively when referring to her.

The take. When a woman is placed as a trans woman — and when it is reported that she has not completed genital surgery — the standard practice for reporting on trans women was to prescribe her as a “transvestite”. This journalistic practice began to be more widely discouraged in the 2000s, but still occurs routinely in the reporting of murdered trans women in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Source: Toronto Star. 1991. Arson confirmed in fatal fire. Toronto Star, 13 January: p. A7.

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“CHARLES” WELBANKS: murdered, 1988

Who? “Charles” Welbanks, a 38-year-old white gender-nonconforming person
When? 6 February 1988
Where? At their home, on Queen Street West
How? Domestic violence. Stabbed four times by their boyfriend.
Did they find their killer? Yes. His name was John Ralph Taylor, who plead guilty to manslaughter. Taylor had an extensive criminal record prior to murdering Welbanks.

What did the press say about Welbanks? The article described Welbanks as “a transvestite”. It referred to Welbanks exclusively with masculine pronouns and with their legal name. They had known their killer for eight years.

The take. It was common practice to describe a relationship between a cis man and a trans woman as “homosexual lovers”. Journalist Darroch overlooked the pattern of domestic violence by men against women and femininity.

Source: Darroch, Wendy. 1989. Man, 48, who killed roommate in quarrel over bed gets 6 years. Toronto Star, 14 February: p. A18.

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LISA BLACK: murdered, 1987

Who? Lisa Black, a 23-year-old white trans woman
When? 2 March 1987
Where? At her home, on Northcote Avenue (West Queen West)
How? Domestic violence. She suffered massive blunt force head trauma from multiple hammer blows.
Did they find her killer? Yes. Her name was Synthia Anne Kavanagh, a trans woman.

What did the press say about Lisa? The Toronto Star used the name assigned to her at birth, adding “also known as Lisa”. They described Lisa as being “in the midst of being surgically changed from a man to a woman” and “was known to work as a prostitute” in Parkdale. One article (Toronto Star, July 31st) referred to her with feminine pronouns. The Globe and Mail article described her as a “transsexual prostitute”.

Several hours before her murder, she was also robbed by a cis man in his car, possibly while she at work. Her legal identification was stolen in that robbery.

The take. A journalistic device used for reporting on trans people — trans men, trans women, and genderqueer people — is the insistence on “revealing” one’s dead name (that is, the name they no longer use in common practice, legally, or both). Whenever a trans subject is alive and interviewed, it is not uncommon for a cis journalist to insist on discovering a trans person’s dead name.

It’s also common to treat the history of a trans person’s body as a public item. This is because trans bodies are regarded by many cis people as public property — a kind of social eminent domain. This is a function of cisnormativity.

Penetrating inquiry like this dehumanizes the subject, and it helps to rationalize journalistic claims that a trans person’s dead name is “still relevant because it’s a matter of public record.” This is especially troublesome when the public record has long since invalidated and purged a name assigned at birth. This legal fact is often not respected. As well, making light of a trans person’s name assigned at birth is a weapon which many cis people have shown no compunction in exposing. Doing so serves one purpose: for cis people to put trans people in their place.

Sources: [1] Moore, Dene. 1999. Murderer will be allowed sex change, prison transfer. The Globe and Mail, 19 November: p. A2. [2] Toronto Star. 1987. Murder charge laid in killing of transsexual. Toronto Star, 31 July: p. A7.

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DIANE EDWARDS: murdered, 1979

Who? Diane Edwards, a 36-year-old white trans woman
When? 20 October 1979
Where? At her home, on 45 Badgerow Drive (Leslieville, near Dundas Street E. and Pape Street)
How? domestic violence. She was bludgeoned repeatedly with a baseball bat and stabbed with a butcher knife.
Did they find her killer? Yes. His name was Gregory Thomas Cooper.

What did the press say about Diane? The Metropolitan Toronto Police morality bureau investigated before transferring to homicide detectives. The murderer also attacked and grievously injured two cis women and a 6-year-old child — all of whom were Diane’s housemates. All three survived.

The article labelled Ms. Edwards as “a transvestite” and used both masculine pronouns and honorific. It identified her by her dead name. The article added how she was “known to neighbours as Diane.”

The article ended on this remark: “reports that Mr. [sic] Edwards was a transsexual were incorrect… the man [sic] was a transvestite — he [sic] had not had a sex-change operation.”

The take. It was once commonplace for journalists to describe a trans woman as a deviant cis man who used an “alias” — and do with with masculine pronouns. Diane was killed by domestic violence. This still occurs in stories like the Cleveland trans woman, Cemia Dove, who was murdered in 2013.

Source: Bourrie, Mark. 1979. Man is charged with murder in stabbing of transvestite, 36. The Globe and Mail, 22 October: p. P4.

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SHIRLEY HAUSER: murdered, 1978

Who? Shirley Christine Hauser, a 20-year-old white trans woman
When? 19 August 1978
Where? On the lawn of Western Technical High School, Evelyn Crescent
How? While on a date. When her date learnt that Shirley was trans, he attacked her with a knife. Her right jugular vein was sliced open, and she suffered 17 stab wounds across her neck and chest. Her body was found the next morning by a man who was walking his dog.
Did they find her killer? Yes. His name was Richard William Andes. He was found guilty and sentenced. His prison term was commuted a year later in consideration of “homosexual [sic] panic.”

What did the press say about Shirley? All three articles by The Globe and Mail set a very unforgiving precedent on reporting the murders of trans women in Toronto. The city coroner who completed the autopsy on Shirley’s body, stressed that the “female hormone pills in his [sic] purse … were way above the therapeutic dosage.”

The 1978 article, reporting the murder, devoted a paragraph to describing her body’s morphology:

The victim had well-developed breasts and lacked facial hair as a result of taking hormones. Police and hospital staff thought for several hours that the body was that of a woman [sic].

The mother of the murderer, when his guilty verdict was read, “burst into tears and cried out: Oh, no. Don’t punish him for the homosexual [sic]. Oh please, he is the victim.” (1979)

When the murderer’s sentence was commuted, The Globe and Mail used scare quotations around Shirley’s correctly-gendered pronoun:

The Ontario Court of Appeal has reduced an eight-year-sentence to six years for a man who flew into a rage and stabbed his date to death after discovering that “she” was a transsexual. (1980)

The take. Shirley Hauser’s womanhood was erased promptly by the press. It succeeded to place her as a cis gay man trying to “deceive” a cis heterosexual man, despite all situational and physical evidence showing the contrary.

This isn’t “homosexual panic”. This is violence against women and violence against trans people (much the way Brandon Teena, a trans man, was killed in 1993). The more possessive a cis man is with a woman, the more violent he may become when he isn’t “promised” what he is expected. This possession is about control over a woman’s agency. Innumerable trans women have been killed by cis men who have attacked them when she is often at her most vulnerable and defenceless. This kind of vulnerability — and the impulsive violence — is an invidious misogyny, coupled with a tacitly permissive transphobia.

It also speaks to the objectification of a woman’s body: Ms. Hauser’s murderer wanted to posses a part of her body she did not have to give.

Sources: [1] Globe and Mail. 1978. Transsexual, 20, killed with knife. The Globe and Mail, 21 August: p. P5. [2] Globe and Mail. 1979. Man is jailed for knife killing of transsexual. The Globe and Mail, 10 April: p. P3. [3] Globe and Mail. 1980. In brief: term cut in transsexual slaying. The Globe and Mail, 18 April: p. P4.

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UNNAMED TRANS WOMAN: suicide, ca. 1978

Who? An unidentified, twenty-something trans woman
When? around 1978
Where? Toronto (not specified)
How? A self-inflicted gunshot wound to her head.
Who was responsible for coercing her suicide? The Clarke Gender Identity Clinic, now known as CAMH. The Clarke GIC selectively denied her access to endocrine management and other trans health services based on her body’s superficial appearance (they deemed her “too hairy”).

What did the press say about this woman? The Globe and Mail’s Joan Hollobon used this woman’s death as a vehicle: one, a public interest piece on trans health services conserved by The Clarke GIC; and two, a story of exacerbating the deviance of people who are trans. The story identified this woman with the masculine pseudonym “Ronny” (neither the masculine name assigned to her at birth, nor the name she embraced for herself, was used for the story). They referred to her exclusively with masculine pronouns.

The take. When journalists like Hollobon have interviewed The Clarke GIC (and CAMH) on matters pertaining to trans people, they have done so uncritically. While it isn’t unusual for journalists to accept an “expert’s opinion” without critical investigation, what makes it so troublesome here is how the population directly impacted by this institution was not interviewed as experts to their own experiences. To 2013, every director at The Clarke GIC/CAMH, on matters of trans medicine, has been a cis person — most of them white cis men.

In this article, The Clarke maintained steadfastly how being trans is a mental illness, much the way homosexuality was prior to 1973, and how access to care must be conserved and commoditized through a mechanism of restriction (known colloquially to trans people as “jumping hoops”).

Compare this restrictiveness to women-oriented health clinics which provide reproductive health services: by limiting access to those services, unnecessary hardships and drastic measures can (and often do) occur. The relationship between reproductive medicine and trans medicine share the same root: endocrinology (or, the means to externally manage the endocrine function of one’s body, which came about in the early 20th century). The political and institutional barriers which restrict and regulate women’s bodies (cis and trans) behave identically to the barriers which restrict and regulate trans bodies (whether they’re women, men, or gender-non-conforming).

Hollobon facilitated a narrative which was compassionate to The Clarke GIC’s mission and unforgiving to the trans woman who was made a public example of pathos (and a warning to trans people struggling to come out): that a trans person must be gifted to “look the part” (lookism, objectification) and must adhere to restrictive, deeply cissexist provisions as a precondition to being granted access to conserved health services.

Endocrine care isn’t scarce: it’s made that way through conscious policy decisions from institutions like The Clarke/CAMH so that they can continue to stay in demand (and funded publicly), in spite of their Draconian standards of care toward several people who were trans.

This is cisnormative gatekeeping. Consequently, hundreds if not thousands of trans people who are denied access have attempted to end their lives. Many have succeeded. Their blood can be traced to this systemic routine of restriction — a cissexist, misogynistic restriction at that.

Source: Hollobon, Joan. 1978. Changing sex — not for the confused: Clarke Institute screens out most applicants. The Globe and Mail, 25 September: p. P1.

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Intersectionality, illustrated.

Intersectionality should seem straightforward to describe, but with so many layers and social experiences involved, visualizing someone else’s intersectional experiences can get complicated very quickly.

Describing one’s own life experiences — for example, what it means to be cis or trans — can be really challenging when those intersections aren’t shared mutually between people.

There may be other diagrams which demonstrate how social intersections manifest, but this is the model I think of whenever I’m describing intersectionality.

This diagram series represents intersectional life experiences as a gradient filter lenses. Each lens moves along an axis which illustrates how one’s intersectional placement functions as an institutional privilege or barrier.

If you find this useful as a teaching aid, feel free to link to it.

Slide 1: your core goals, dreams, and paths

Slide #1: Where you want to go with your life

Being human means to look forward to new experiences. To have dreams is a part of this. This is where the idea of pursuing happiness originates.

For this diagram, these aspirations are represented by a circle. This circle is you — or at least where you hope to go. This is also where all your intersectional experiences will interact and shape the way you’re able to see and reach those aspirations.

Words which describe aspirations are very easy to see in this slide. Perhaps this is what one’s own worldview looks like at the age of four. The world seems wide open as one is not really as aware of their own intersectional placement. Life’s chances, or Lebenschancen, are coloured by each intersectional experience one finds themselves.

Slide 2: First intersection - intersectional privilege

Slide #2: What an intersectional privilege looks like

Each intersectional life experience is a tinted lens.

The hues are arbitrary, but the tints, from nearly opaque to nearly transparent, aren’t. The social terms for what a tint gradient represents is generally beyond one’s individual control. How the world places someone determines how that lens is positioned between them and where they want to be. That’s the intersectional axis.

How opaque a lens is, meanwhile, represents the severity of intersectional inequity. A lens may be nearly opaque at one end and completely clear at the other. A best-case situation is when a lens has virtually no tinting whatsoever. That’s what facing down misogyny, cissexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, and poverty is striving to do.

Each intersectional lens is put on an axis. The axis can represent ethnicity; sexuality; whether one is cis or trans; whether one voices themselves as a woman or man; one’s economic placement; one’s physical abilities; one’s age; and so on.

This slide shows what one intersectional experience, a privilege, looks like. This lens — here, representing womanhood and manhood — is positioned along its axis with the least intersectional obstruction.

Slide #2 has the lens positioned as it is if one voices themselves as a man. Intersectional privilege is afforded to men. For women, there are greater barriers which men don’t run into. If someone voices themselves as a man, then the path between them and where they want to be isn’t obscured nearly as much as (all other intersectional experiences being the same) when they voice themselves as a woman.

Slide 3: First intersection - intersectional barrier

Slide #3: What an intersectional barrier looks like

This slide shows the same intersectional lens, except as it is positioned when one voices, or affirms themselves as a woman. At one time, this portion of the lens was completely opaque. Each wave of feminism has worked to confront how to make this lens more transparent irrespective of how it’s positioned — that is, irrespective of one’s intersectional life experience.

As a woman, one can still see where to go, but it takes more work to see and reach it. This is what one intersectional barrier can do. Polarizing debates are often built around isolating one intersectional experience and flattening all other intersectional experiences into that one intersection. This tactic makes a lot of people and their unique experiences all but invisible. That’s one way marginalized people can be hurt by others who claim to speak for everyone with the same, singular lens (such as white, cis, heterosexual women speaking on behalf of all women).

Now it’s time to add more intersectional lenses to begin approximating more realistic conditions.

Slide 4- four intersections - no intersectional barriers

Slide #4: Four intersections, with four intersectional privileges

Three additional axes are added on this slide to show in a very simple sense what happens as several intersectional experiences actually intersect and how this stacking can make it more difficult to see and reach where one hopes to be — particularly as each lens is positioned as an intersectional barrier.

The first lens, carried over from before, signifies womanhood and manhood. The second axis (and lens) signifies race, generally. The third signifies whether one is cis or trans. The fourth axis signifies whether one is heterosexual or homosexual. (These axes could signify other intersectional experiences, too, and none are necessarily required to be limited to either/or positions.)

Slide #4 represents a white, cis, heterosexual man. All his intersectional experiences negligibly tint where he wants to be, but there’s very little in the way of anything obstructing his path.

Slide 5- four intersections - one intersectional barrier

Slide #5: Four intersections, with one intersectional barrier

This slide is similar to the one before, but one intersectional axis — of sexuality — is different. This reflects the intersectional barriers a white, cis, gay man might face.

Slide 6- four intersections - four intersectional barriers

Slide #6: Four intersections, four intersectional barriers

Slide #6 begins to show how several institutional barriers seriously disrupt one’s ability to see and reach where they want to go. This slide represents the intersections of a woman of colour who is lesbian and trans. This doesn’t factor other intersectional experiences, such as age, class, and mental health. Even from these alone, it’s not hard to see how contrasted and obstructed her life chances are, versus the white, cis, heterosexual man represented in slide #4. She confronts manifold barriers where he sees very few.

Slide 7- eight intersectional barriers

Slide #7: Eight intersectional experiences, eight intersectional barriers

This slide continues from slide #6 to show how multiple levels of marginalization, as the more obscured parts of the lenses continue to intersect, can completely block where one is trying to go with their life. In this slide, those goals, dreams, hopes, aspirations, and desires are virtually impossible to see. At best, a faint hint of what could have been is visible, but still impossibly remote.

For a lesbian trans woman of colour who is poor, physically disabled, older, and a migrant (or illegal immigrant), her intersectional barriers are crushing.

Slide 8a- what I work toward

Conclusion: a social intersectionality I hope to see for everyone

This final slide is a Utopian model which won’t happen while I’m alive. Maybe it’ll never happen, but it’s probably the only way we’re going to do away with systemic social inequities. This slide motivates the social justice work I do.

Joe Clark.

“…a great site to read if you’re a fervent defender of Muslims or trannies or both, since criticism of either or both is simply not permitted.” —Joe Clark

I can’t find a nice way to say this. The longer Joe Clark isn’t being held responsible for his ongoing hostility toward people who are trans (or who are marginalized by other intersectional experiences), the longer Toronto continues to be an unsafe place for people like me.

My friends, the ones who are cis, might not need to think about this so much, but that doesn’t make the hazardousness of his behaviour go away. It’s bothersome that Mr. Clark vilifies marginalized people so eagerly. It’s more bothersome how so few of his peers stand up to him and say that it’s etiquette they won’t tolerate in Toronto.

By standing up to Mr. Clark, you are advocating for people like me. You are making Toronto a safer, better place for more people. As you begin to cover for me when I can’t be there, it shows me that you’re somebody who’s concerned with my welfare. You may not be able to call yourself an ally. You may never meet me. But when you stand beside me, you are showing a gesture of goodwill — a selfless act of alliance which never goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

If you’ve never heard of him, Joe Clark is a local person who writes about typefaces, subways, web design, and “gay money” (or “fagonomics”). He is variously described online as a zealot, a gadfly, and a bigot.

Mr. Clark is a man. He’s gay. He’s white. He’s cis. He really dislikes being described as cis:

“I thought you wanted our support. Stop calling us ‘cis.’” —Joe Clark

It’s not clear for whom Mr. Clark is speaking when he says “our” and “us.” I’m sure he can only speak for himself. Maybe a few other cis people agree with him. He might rest better knowing he’s not carrying the burden of speaking for cis people — not even for the cis people in Toronto’s gay and lesbian community.

As cis people go, I don’t want Mr. Clark’s support. It’s not because I think he won’t be a good advocate. It’s that I know he’s incapable of advocating for people whose intersectional life experiences he finds so completely disagreeable. His support is an arsenic.

For several years, I’ve listened to Mr. Clark on the way he pathologizes the experiences of trans people. His attention, sometimes paired with a clinical coldness, can border on the obsessive. He’s disdainful whenever there’s a chance that known trans people could benefit, participate, or are genuinely welcomed.

Mr. Clark’s cissexist behaviour is no less troublesome than when a heterosexual person pathologizes the intersectional experiences of homosexuality. He may beg to differ. In the not-so-distant past, well within Mr. Clark’s own lifetime, this is what used to happen to cis people who were homosexual. He’s aware of this.

Maybe he hopes that people who are trans might one day fade away once cis mental health practitioners agree that being trans is not a mental illness. Maybe Mr. Clark thinks that nobody will “want” to be trans anymore. Honestly, I don’t know what goes through his mind, but I can tell it isn’t a very happy place. It’s a place of spite.

Whenever Mr. Clark brings up people who are trans, nearly everything he says about them is toxic, paranoid, and contemptuous. It’s in stark contrast to his positive work on public transportation signage and accessibility. Mel Gibson’s a very talented actor.

It’s seldom when Mr. Clark passes on challenging the agency of trans women and trans men, even when the topics have nothing to do with any of his own intersectional life experiences. For example, he remarked on the announcement of a women’s bathhouse social event:

“Let’s define ‘women’ a tad more carefully. Indeed, ‘sometimes women need a space that is just for them.’ That would immediately exclude at the very least transgenders with male genitalia. But, in one of many logical paradoxes tied in with this event, FTMs who (again) insist they are men every other minute of the year can breeze right in because they still have vaginas. Do you think any heterosexualist female, at all, anywhere, ever, wants to be in a sexual environment with trannies prancing around? —Joe Clark

Mr. Clark can feel however he wants. He can make conspiracy theories about people who are trans (or people he thinks could be trans). What’s not OK is whenever cis people quietly let him dehumanize trans people’s lives and trivialize the barriers they face without holding him responsible for the social cost of his intolerance.

Joe Clark likes to talk about the TTC, but he also likes to attack trans people.

photo: erlogan

When Mr. Clark is openly cissexist or transinvidic*, it comes with a social price. His behaviour cultivates a climate of social hostility for everyone who has this intersectional experience. As his animus for trans people is usually reserved for women (and their bodies), he adds to a misogyny which cuts across women of every intersection.

Trans women may have to put up with his abuse directly, but when we turn a blind eye to his transmisogyny, we are helping along the culture of misogyny that reduces both trans and cis women to our containers — our bodies. It’s a culture which regulates us, our legitimacy, and our subjectiveness as women based on the particular conditions of our containers.

(*Transinvidia” is an expression of discontent, resentment, and/or envy of people who are trans. It maliciously regards and begrudges the reality of trans people’s lives. It’s different from “transphobia”, because the feelings aren’t rooted in fear.)

Mr. Clark is also capable of expressing animus toward trans people who are dead. On the passing of a 519 community centre advocate, a trans man named Kyle Scanlon:

“[Kyle] Scanlon clearly didn’t want to become a ‘man.’ Were that true, he would have lived as one and we’d never have heard from him again. He became a professional transsexual, endlessly quoted in the press and appearing on TV and running a transgender support program.” —Joe Clark

There are a few cis people who don’t need any persuading to stand up for the well-being of trans people. These aren’t the cis people I wish to reach. The problem is that when other cis people aren’t speaking out against antisocial behaviour like Mr. Clark’s, it helps to produce two problems.

First, whenever you brush aside Mr. Clark’s behaviour with “oh, that’s just Joe being Joe again,” you are tacitly enabling his asocial hostility. He needs to understand that while he may think or feel however he wishes, there’s still a social propriety to which he must abide if he wants to participate.

Second, while Mr. Clark’s cissexist remarks may not affect you personally, they are affecting the trans person right nearby you. She feels it. She just can’t say much, because it may put her into harm’s way. If being trans wasn’t such a big deal to some cis people, then no such harm would lurk.

(Which trans person? You don’t see a trans person? That’s OK. It’s common for trans people to go unnoticed by cis people. Trans people, just like cis people, don’t have a prescribed appearance, history, sexuality, or narrative. We’re no less diverse than cis people. There’s just fewer of us in number.)

“If you’re a ‘questioning’ youth or a water-polo player or some kind of tranny who needs testosterone in your ass on the government dime, there’s a nice welcoming place for you in ‘our diverse communities.’ If you’re of the generation that made gay Toronto, the generation that was affected by the bathhouse raids of 1981 or was actually there, you’ve got nothing.” —Joe Clark

Here, Mr. Clark expresses his entitlement for being a man who is white, cis, and gay. This is not unheard of among men who share his intersectional experiences. It bothers him that his idealized vision is indeterminately tarnished by the messy diversity of people’s social experiences and their own needs. He waxes for a purity the way an elder on the porch yearns for a return to the traditional values “when things were better.” What Mr. Clark wants is a social conservatism as it befits his own experiences — and at the expense of everyone whose intersectional life experiences interfere with his vision.

photo: adactio

photo: adactio

“For the love of Pete, Rich, stop calling us ‘cis.’” —Joe Clark

I can see that Mr. Clark really doesn’t like the descriptive word “cis.” His desire to have his own experiences described as something other than cis is no longer being honoured by everyone. It’s because the word “cis” is as bothersome to him as “heterosexual” was to some heterosexual people a generation ago.

But both are meaningful. Each description helps bring to light the ubiquity of intersectional experiences which are manifest by the social privileges afforded when you are heterosexual and/or cis. Prior to, such privileges were called the “default” and “normal.” This shaped the way we saw things around us. If you weren’t “normal,” then you were “deviant.”

This is why social normativities like heteronormativity and cisnormativity are very real. So is homonormativity, which has a unique history. Mr. Clark advocates for a homonormativity. Like heteronormativity, it supports the continuance of a cisnormativity.

Whenever there’s a social normativity, anyone who is placed outside of those normative margins won’t experience a social benefit. Normativity can live on as a social commodity with an artificial scarcity worth conserving and controlling by anyone who benefits from it.

It’s as if a few people who are cis, heterosexual, or both, now feel uncomfortable. It’s as if they’ve lost something. They have, sort of: they’ve lost the privilege to dodge critical scrutiny, now that there’s a way to describe their experiences without using troublesome words like “normal.” They’ve lost the privilege of treating people who lack their own intersectional privilege as objects.

Mr. Clark has protested how his experiences of being cis have been described as cis. Yet he shows no compunction when prescribing — that is, to label as objects — people who are trans as “transgenders” (a thing), “transgenderists” (a hobby), and even “the transgendered” (a terrible affliction):

“…drag queens threw their heels at cops at a riot in a foreign country 40 years ago, and that legitimate gay males and lesbians are, perhaps unbeknownst to them, waging the same war against gender orthodoxy that transgenderists are. (Gay is really just a subset of transgender, they allege; transgender is really the fullest expression of Gay. If they try hard enough, gays and lesbians might someday become as gay as a transgendered person automatically is.)” —Joe Clark, on trans people needing to keep to themselves

No one can stop Mr. Clark from denying the humanity of people who are trans, even after they’re dead. Misogynists do this to women and femininity. Xenophobic people do this to people whose cultural experiences aren’t contained neatly in a nationalist, racist box. Homophobic people do this to people who are believed to be anything but heterosexual — irrespective if the subject is cis or trans.

Mr. Clark also cannot expect to have it both ways. He cannot prescribe the experiences of a very diverse population and then proscribe others from describing his own experiences (and how he uses his intersectional privilege to do the prescribing).

Now that describing the experience of being cis is possible, it is also possible to redress social orders which appraise cis life experiences over trans life experiences. Mr. Clark knows this. It’s clear he doesn’t want that discussion to happen, because as it does, it uncovers how his behaviour toward trans people has been hostile, antisocial, and really crude.

When we dispense with the humanity of others, we scrape away a little more of our own humanity. We don’t have to like everyone else. We don’t have to agree with everyone else. But we must learn to respect that people deserve the agency of their humanity. They deserve being treated as a subject. They deserve that their intersectional experiences of personhood are respected — especially by people who don’t share them.

— featured image: tantek

“Invisibility is indivisible from visibility.”

“We became acutely aware of the preciousness of anonymity, understanding it as a form of virginity. Anonymity allows you access to civic space, to a form of participation in public life, to an egalitarian invisibility that neither of us was prepared to give up… Invisibility is indivisible from visibility. For the transgender [person], this is not simply a philosophical conundrum. It can be the difference between life and death.

—Lana Wachowski, film director

— featured image: Lana Wachowski at TIFF, by jwjensen


This body’s peace accord is almost ratified. 22 June 1994. Hill Country furnace nights. The colour of jet black. Difficult Shapes and Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun to Entertain. The graveyard shift. The long, unknowable, insurmountable, unmarked road ahead. Seven Sports for All. The long, known, aware road behind. 8 August 2012. No More Blue Horizons. Pacific dusk at 34,000′. The colours of white and blue. Feel to Be Driven Away. What was once 12 is now 30. I defied fate. That’s good enough. Time to live. A transitional septet. Not next an octet, but a new series entirely.

Some people I knew to lead fantastic lives. This is now a fantastic life.

Pater-daughter aftermath.

“Aftermath” tends to have only a negative connotation, but I don’t want to use it like that here. Things with my father actually went pretty well — as well as I’d have expected once we were in the same space together.

What my father has been to me for most of my life is absent when I’ve needed him the most. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become clearer that for me to have him in my life, I have to ask him pretty directly to be a part of it. Otherwise, he never will step up of his own volition. I’m disappointed that he can’t volunteer himself without having to be proverbially bonked on the head to get his attention.

After my graduation, as he and I were walking to campus on a gloriously rare spring day of near-perfection, he relayed to me how his “ladyfriend” (in his sixties, he feels better calling his girlfriend this and not, well “girlfriend”, given its creepy connotations of age and the like) also chided him for hesitating on coming to my graduation. She told him, “When a girl says that something is not that big of a deal to her, it means that it’s a very big deal to her.” I’m not sure whether she said this to him before or after the guilt-inducing email (it was an email I didn’t enjoy writing at all, but it all came from the heart), or if it happened after the first time I wrote in early May after he said he’d botched the date I’d sent him back in February.

“She’s absolutely right, you know,” I said to him as we jaywalked across a side street.

He furrowed his brow and lightly said: “Well, don’t do that!”

“Sorry, Dad. That’s just how I roll. Get used to it.”

At some point later in that walk back to campus, I expressed doubt that he really was proud of me — not because I doubted him, but because I doubted myself. It was probably the lingering sense that here he was with his daughter — the one he “acquired” in the ’90s — which he hardly ever sees (his other daughter lives twenty minutes away). If tallying contiguously all the times he’s been in my presence since all those years ago — I am the daughter he has spent a total of about three weeks with in person. Over the span of about twenty years, that is.

[I recognize there’s still a benefit to having any time with him which other people don’t get to have with their fathers, much less their mothers. I acknowledge, even affirm that here. My talking about this is not an act of diminishing those experiences others may know. But frankly, this is my blog, and it isn’t even a blog I promote as existing. This is a kind of diary, I guess. If anyone reads this, then super. Moving along.]

When I expressed this doubt to him, he sort of surprised me. This was, after all, the daughter who was now better educated than he was. This was the daughter who he originally thought was his son just because she was assigned by some obstetrician to be a boy — not because he had held any expectations for her, gendered or not. (Truth: he really didn’t.) This was the daughter who was now the best and most educated of his four children. But this daughter was also the most estranged of his children, the child most abused by our mother by a country mile, the child who had faced institutional discrimination and violence, and the child who unquestionably has maintained the most steadfast self-doubt about herself or any of her capabilities (contrast this to my youngest brother with whom I have zero relationship, who is a correspondent for FOX News in some backwater town).

“Ententa, I’m ridiculously proud of you!” (Actually, he used my name, not my nom de plume, but the sentiment was still the same.)

Then he put his hand into mine and held it as we walked. This gave me the most unfamiliar feeling: of my daddy holding my hand in a protective kind of way, a way I hadn’t known since probably about age 5. I guess the context of him doing so was self-explanatory to passers-by: we now do look somewhat similar (it seems that as I get older, I’ve started looking more like I’m from his side of the family than no side at all; then again, he has no hair, and I have a head of short, thick, multi-coloured hair). We are about the same height when I’m wearing two-inch heels (he’s still taller than I was despite). I was still wearing the now-unzipped graduation gown and a dressy dress below that. He wore a pink tie. It was kind of amazing. For the first time, I could see the ageing of a man who is nearing his senior years. It was jarring. It showed in really subtle ways, ways which only a daughter or son might notice. It reminded me of his (and my) mortality, of how little time we relatively have left. I want to find a way to make the next many years count to their fullest.

How do you ask someone who is all but living the last quarter of his life to stay in your own life after a lifetime of him being away from it? I guess this question is more universal than just my being a trans kid once upon a time and now dealing with the cis parent of a trans woman. How would I want him to be in my life? It’s not like we’ll ever live anywhere close to one another (we won’t), and it’s not like I celebrate birthdays, or major secular or religious holidays (I don’t celebrate any holidays except the ones I invent on my own). It’s not like we share the same core interests (he’s a hard scientist by education and manager by profession, while I’m an interdisciplinary social scientist/humanities scholar and independent labourer).

Oddly, though, we do seem to share one inauspicious history, which came up during his visit. It happened in a pretty startling way. After reception with cohorts, faculty, and staff, he and my programme director were talking about music, to which my dad said he couldn’t hear very well during the graduation ceremony based on the way he was sitting. He openly remarked how his left ear had poor hearing. I asked him if there was a reason for this. “Yeah, my ex-wife hit me real hard there and damaged my eardrum.” He said this right in front of my director. I was sort of too stunned to click on the awkwardness of this, so I asked him by name if it was She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

“No, the other ex-wife.”

I was agape. I didn’t know his second ex-wife had beaten him, much like my ex-mother had. I felt a compassion for him I’d never known before. Here was an adult, heterosexual man who had married twice and twice had married women who ended up being sociopathic in the most classic senses: they were nice when they wanted something for themselves. Like him, I’d been involved with girlfriends who ended up showing themselves to be sociopathic. My director seemed to take the diversion in stride; the two of them returned to talking about how both of them liked seeing Sting in concert (uhm).

It seems like my father and I both have a blind spot in this sense, and I don’t understand totally why. I mean, I might understand with my experiences: my ex-mother was a bona fide sociopath and probably was one long before he even met her in the late 1960s. Whether the case or not, there’s a thread of folk reasoning — in obviously the most vernacular of senses — that when you date people, you tend to be drawn to those who most resembled your parent of similar gendered social placement. This is really scary, because it means I may be unwittingly drawn to people who likewise are sociopathic like my ex-mother was.

So does that mean my dad’s late mother was also sociopathic? I don’t honestly believe so, but then again, she was quirky in ways which I still can’t yet figure out — namely, why she kept to herself after she became a widow; why I still know so little about her; how she was treated, possibly even abused while she was still an orphan in the 1910s and 1920s (she was eventually adopted); or why she once freaked out whilst going through shoeboxes of old photos with other family members, screening all photographs first and shredding the ones she didn’t want other family members to see. On the last, it especially makes me cringe given how I’m a photographer: what was lost forever in her destruction of so many photos? Then again, my dad was also once an active photographer. It’s one of the few things we unquestionably share in common.

My history seems to bear this out with ex-girlfriends at least twice during the last two decades, and possibly three times. Which, if this is the case, it makes me think that I might just be best off staying permanently single for the rest of my life. As it is, I’ve spent most of my adult life not really dating others. What’s a few more years or decades of being alone?

Worse, I’ve always, always feared that I might unwittingly pass along any of the programming I forcibly had to learn onto others, even when I’m cognizant of what that abuse was. This is why I long ago vowed to never become a mother (even though a really amazing young woman who lost her own mother when she was really young has since adopted me as her mother). It’s why I vowed to avoid opiates (unless in critical condition at hospital, such as the case was once) and why I keep liquor out of the house for most intents (my mother was/is alcoholic and a valium addict).

Increasingly, though, I’ve begun asking probably the scariest question of all: am I also a sociopath? Online references suggest that if you find yourself asking that question, then you’re definitely not one. But why can’t I shake the nagging feeling that, yes, I might be? If so, who have I abused? Who have I manipulated? Who have I hurt? Who have I used? Have I ever, per the same online references, approached life in a “ends justify the means” kind of way? Do I lack a conscience?

And the answer I arrive to each time, and to each question, is: “I don’t honestly know.” Which is why I worry further. I also don’t know what else may be wrong with me — beyond, that is, having a fractured brain of dissociation (brought on by specific traumas) and thirty years of clinical depression (brought on by both abuse and being forced silent for my being trans).

One of my best friends also came to visit me during graduation. During our week together, it became apparent during one of our talks that I’ve been in a kind of survival-defensive mode for about fifteen years. When she pointed this out to me, I dryly asked, “So at fifteen years, I guess it’s not much of a phase anymore, is it?” What our talks did produce was how in those fifteen years, my ability to be there for others has been compromised to some extent — some periods more so than others. In the three years since three very bad things happened in my life in short, rapid succession, she remarked that I’ve been especially unable to be there emotionally for others in a way that I’d like to be available. They were, she stressed, pretty significant incidents to work through — some with consequences continuing to the very present.

She also recognized that what happened to me recently with activism stuff was a classic act of the other girls ejecting me from their lunch table — whether out of social fear, out of being provoked to face things they weren’t ready to deal with, out of frustration that I didn’t play by their rules, or for some other reason not yet known. But everything about it, she observed, was a classic pattern amongst girls who expect rules of social protocol to be followed — and that failing to play by those rules results in being thrown out of the group. In short, she said, “They hurt you and they shouldn’t have done that.” It’s of little solace, because the pain is quite deeply in place.

Something I thought was uniquely special — a social movement I largely (and quietly) brought together in the first place — is now something to which I am no longer a part. She added, however, that I can’t expect to remain anonymous and decline attribution for anything useful I say while at the same time wanting the people I brought together to remember that I was the person who sort of ignited the spark that got this fire burning. If this is the case, then how did the four trans women who started Occupy Wall Street (of five people in all) manage to balance both of these? They haven’t really asked for name credit or cited attribution, yet the trans people who support the OWS movement don’t forget who those four women are — or at least know that it was four trans women — when its origins are brought up.

Moreover, of those in that circle, I’m still the only one who lacks an activist blog with my name (or nom de plume) on it. The only activist blog I produced — long before almost all of them started their current work — was designed from day one to be a multi-contributor, collaborative project where a plurality of voices could be heard by many. That I repeated this in an editorial commentary about avoiding cults of personality should have made it clear that this was supposed to be about our social plurality, not our solo egos. Apparently, that was soundly voted down and I was asked to leave the island.

She and I did arrive to one certainty: when personal passions between two people and work between two people get tangled — where the work (in this case, my being an editor, her the writer) becomes an unintended proxy for the relationship — when the working relationship failed, so too did the personal relationship. She said this is one of the biggest pitfalls about working with someone with whom you’re also romantically interested — especially if the personal relationship has not had a chance to grow, mature, and stabilize first.

That was a digression. What I’m trying to do in that social aftermath is to work through what was lost, how exposed I left myself to people who showed a capacity to harm, and to try to get my social life back into some sense of calm and stability. It did little to reassure my longstanding fear that people don’t automatically detest me the moment they get to know me.

My best friend who visited has the perspective to know this, I guess, given how long she’s been in my life and is aware, first-hand, of what I’ve survived. She’s been witness to really bad things that happened to me for which few of my other close friends were present. She said that I need to take the next while to try to recharge emotionally after the last three years of being in a kind of self-protective emergency mode.

Then again, she’s stuck by me since 1997, as have quite a few other friends over the years — some going back as far as 27 years ago. Sociopaths don’t keep friends like that for nearly so long, so this begs the question: am I or am I not sociopathic? Maybe I have a borderline personality? Maybe I’m just irrevocably broken?

Again, I’m reserving this blog to be a kind of personal diary where navel-gazing is to be expected. I hope that by doing this as an exercise — an inward, personal one — I can redirect my other writing to topics which have very little to do with me personally and more about what motivates, impassions, or provokes me to write generally. But even so, writing so frankly about my dirty laundry feels a bit vain, even narcissistic. Which is why I feel guilty when I do it (I also feel guilty about a lot of things).

I guess the short of it is my social calibration has been off for so long that I fear I won’t know what it’s like once it’s been calibrated properly. Maybe it already is and I just don’t recognize it?

Why can’t this be easier to understand?

When I dropped off my father at the airport, I really didn’t want to see him go. We only had about eight hours together. I gave him a long hug and probably had a look of sadness on my face. He said, “You know you’re always welcome to come and visit, even though you can’t stand that city” (he’s right: that city is pretty shitty). I said, “But you know I can’t afford to fly very often.” He replied, “I’ll fly you down when you’re ready.” He also said that he might have some time later this summer to visit me in my town, which I think would be a lot more fun. That way, I can kind of take him around my favourite places and maybe introduce him to more of the people locally who make a positive difference in my life.

Our visit was brief, but wonderful. I am glad I sat to write that letter to him, even if it was a wee bit guilt-inducing. I am relieved to know that he loves me and is even proud to be my dad, even if I need to hear this from him often in order to let it sink in.

In short, the daughter-dad aftermath went very well. It’s just a lot of hard work with uncertainty for how that effort will turn out.

Daughter’s grievance to pater.

An update (2012.06.02): he read, replied, and is scheduled to fly into and out of town on the same day to see me walk. He told me to stop being angry and to stop thinking there’s a “pattern” in his absence of presence as a father. He said he didn’t think this really meant as much to me as it does. Yay to the former, and I’m not aboard with the latter.

Note: The details are anonymized somewhat, but this is otherwise what I sent in an email to my dad earlier today.

Dad —

I’ve been trying to find a way I can articulate my feelings about your missing my masters convocation and about us as daughter and dad. Whereas I was going to just say nothing and let silence reign, I feel I need to say this for the record.

At first, I really was downplaying convocation. Early on, I hadn’t even planned to attend. I think it had mostly to do with my discontent with the university and all the many faux pas they made with us from day one. If I went to convocation ceremony, I reasoned, I’d be doing it for others, like family — not for myself.

Also, my self-confidence was flailing throughout this winter term as I ploughed through my thesis and other major papers. I hit a psychological wall three times in April in which I had emotional meltdowns. Two were ignited by my impostor syndrome, which I knew I’ve struggled with since I was younger, but I didn’t know how bad it went until it hit me early and late in the month.

The third meltdown was, as usual, related to the consistently worst day of the year: my day of birth. I don’t like being reminded that the person who brought me to term disavows my even existing. I even lost a couple of friends who couldn’t cope with the extremeness of my self-flagellation and my disbelief that they could ever genuinely befriend such a failure of a person.

Another hard hit taken in early April: walking through for the first time the sexual assault and/or rape which happened to me when I was five years old. During my second PTSD session on April 5th (same day as the first meltdown), I was able to re-piece most of the narrative contiguously for the first time since it happened. I’d remembered pieces of it always — the clarity of imagery in my memory was always there — but I’d never pasted them back together.

Still, the very middle of that incident in that older girl’s room across the street plays back like the middle of a cassette tape erased rudely. I still lack access to what actually happened during the middle (ostensibly the worst of it). I’ve been told by several people that this is normal and that my mind won’t unlock/unerase that portion until it’s safe to do so. I have no idea how long this will take me.

What I now know, though, is that my dissociative means of coping with an acute crisis — my (so ill-named) “multiple personality disorder” — started then and there in that bedroom on that weekday afternoon, not by She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named (hereafter SWSNBN). It means I’m beginning to understand why I fear intimacy the way I have with most people I’ve dated in the past. It’s also very hard to say, “I was raped,” when I don’t yet fully know how bad it was.

I’ve wondered what I did wrong to end up in that situation. Logically, I know I can’t blame myself, but viscerally is another matter. And viscerally, I wonder if it’s because I “deserved” to be abused like that. Regardless, I know what happened that afternoon is exactly why I pleaded to not have her older sister sit for us ever again. I know I was terrified of her and that whole family thereafter.

The incident was bad enough to cause my developing mind to fracture, which only happens to abuse survivors when first abused traumatically between roughly ages 3 and 7. For each acute incident of trauma thereafter, more fractures happened, because it was neurologically the way my brain had learnt to cope. It took me ’til a few years ago to even realize my brain had been doing this for most of my life. While mending it is what matters a lot now, to now understand why it began in the first place is equally so. Making sense of it is urgent and needed for me to heal.

But that aside, Dad, I am cross with you. Hear me out, please.

As this has gotten closer, I have taken convocation a lot more seriously. I’ve even put some considerable effort into how I’ll look on Tuesday morning. I did let you know this in February. I do get that you failed to check your calendar properly before making a business trip to [city redacted]. I do get that you can’t get out of it (even if I sincerely disagree with it). A business trip is a business trip. They are ordinary and many.

If the parties providing your contract cannot grasp the once-in-a-lifetime importance of a parent being there to see their child graduate from university with the highest degree ever awarded in this family of origin . . .

No, let me start that over: if you, as my only parent, a parent I’ve admonished for being absent at some of the most critical moments of my so-called life — admonished thrice over at this point for those crucial absences — cannot grasp the importance of what this graduation now means to me, then understand how I feel like a fairly low priority in your book. Aside from two cousins (both men, not women), no one has ever made it this far academically in my family of origin. I feel that’s worth standing up for myself and calling for a fête in a city I hope to almost never see again.

Dad, I’m getting older. By this point, I’m pretty certain I will not be getting married (I’m fine with this, actually). I did not go to a high school prom (and wouldn’t have wanted to, given how much I would have hated myself for showing up to one as a boy). This convocation, unlike the last, feels more like a kind of coming-of-age passage, even like a cotillion for being a brainy geek. At cotillion, it’s daughter-and-dad together: dad debuts daughter to society. Yeah, that’s cheese-ball, bourgeois, and very Southern, but such rituals are found in other places and in other ways. This convocation is one such way.

Unlike the last, when I made a high-road gambit on which you called my bluff by showing up (pardon the mixed gaming metaphors), I want you to be at this one. I want people to see I have a parent who is actually proud of me and me proud to have a parent in my life, despite all the obstacles which statistically shouldn’t have let me get this far in my life. I should have been dead several times over. That is not hyperbole. Let me be annoying for a second and cite why.

Very few people like me make it this far. Very few. Over 40 per cent of women like me attempt suicide — failing, as I did at age 13 (I still have a dead front tooth as a scar-reminder from that day). If it matters, it was a botched auto-asphyxiation in psychiatric hospital (which happened just days after you and SWSNBN learnt that I was trying on her clothes and sending me there for “treatment”); I came back to consciousness, lying in a pool of my own blood from breaking my front-right upper tooth. It managed to stay in only because I was wearing braces at the time, which held it in suspension until my root canal at age 15.

Many women who voiced themselves as trans as young as I did end up street-bound. Many women like me end up killed. Many women like me end up homeless, as I did a couple of times in my twenties. Many women like me end up incarcerated, sometimes for defending ourselves from being murdered (please Google “Chrishaun CeCe McDonald” and remember what I went through). Some women like me, of my age, were forced as children into enduring the torture of non-consensual, transorbital lobotomies — of those, most ended up prematurely senile while still children.

This is not hyperbole, either: my best friend of eleven years, is finally talking about being one of the very few gender-variant children-survivors who was forced to endure this — in her case, [mid-1980s date redacted], in [city redacted]. When I sit with my clinician at my university clinic and he, a cis gay man, tells me how he has about twenty patients who are trans men for every trans woman he sees, it’s a reminder of how hard this was for me to do, how badly the cards were stacked against it ever happening. And even I’ve had it a lot easier than several other trans women I’ve known.

I was in [city redacted] in mid-May to see her graduate from [discipline redacted]. I was there because I know how unlikely it was for either of us to ever get this far, in a world which not only doesn’t want us to make it this far, but also to just simply never exist. It did me huge honour to be there for her. I saw a little bit of me in her moment of getting to the threshold of being a [graduate].

Also, with me being this old, and you now just now making it past your own dad’s age when he passed, I see the time we have left becoming more precious and rare. We lost a lot of time — a whole lot, especially when I needed your protection growing up. For what time we’ve left, given the rough sailing it took for us to get here, it is dwindling quickly.

I think I’ve adequate reason to be a bit upset, you know?

It just feels like the same old pattern I’ve known from you, now repeating itself again. I understand you were miffed at yourself for making a scheduling conflict, but that doesn’t mean you should be making yourself scarce or gruff around me (these are the optics, even though I know you’ve never been big on email or phone or otherwise).

It just doesn’t make sense that you cannot iterate to the people for whom your contract is assigned that you need one or two days to fly to and back to see your daughter complete graduate study. I think they’d get it. It’d be tantamount to missing your daughter’s wedding. That’s now about how big this is to me. It’s the closest I’ll get to that. I bought a special dress (first time I’ve even bought a dress in nine years), dyed my hair, and am going to go well beyond my comfort zone to look pretty for this.

I have written you since you said couldn’t make [city redacted]. I have been asking for your help — materially, yes, but regardless, I don’t want to feel afraid for at least trying to ask for you to be there in my life in whatever way. (Incidentally, I secured a date for my surgery appointment in [city redacted]; it is to happen [date redacted]. I am getting partial help, but I need additional help to cover those expenses). I’d be delighted to explain once more why it must happen now and not later, but some other time (and only if you ask of your own volition).

I’m not going to copy edit this email. I’m sorry it’s long, tedious, and jumps around a lot. But one more thing:

The [university] provosts . . . moved convocation . . . from the traditional site to [venue redacted] ([city redacted]‘s [sport redacted] equivalent of [second venue redacted]). I’m not happy about this move. . . I shot this pic last year when I was on campus for a visit with my thesis supervisor, and this was what I’d been looking forward to:

[photo redacted]

In moving the venue last minute, they are also making this convocation available as a live web cast . . . I do expect you to set aside time in [city redacted] to watch it, to watch me walk and go through the ceremony and ritual. That’s the least I feel you could give in lieu of your being present. [bff #1 redacted] and [bff redacted #2] are flying here to join me in [city redacted]. I won’t be alone, but it definitely won’t be the same without you.

Don’t make yourself scarce with me any longer, OK? I still love you, even when I’m upset with you. And perhaps when I’m most upset is when I need you the most — sort of like that parting lunch in [city redacted] three years ago.

That’s all for now. Get back to work.

Love (despite anger),

Oh Father.

“‘Oh Father’ is what the listener thinks it is, all open to interpretation. I just wrote the song, it’s up to others to interpret them to mean what they want them to mean.” — Madonna

a Barthesian death of the author response for “Oh Father”, 1989.