Femme Resources

320 Sunny (6595) Small Edited Version

It took me a long time to understand myself as femme because I’m a man, and to understand myself as a man, because of my femininity. Misogyny, being the fear or hatred of women or femininity, can manifest in many different ways. I can perpetuate sexism myself, and also I am the recipient of misogyny because I’m effeminate. I’m so grateful for fabulous femmes and women and their powerful resistance to misogyny and sexism. I hope to keep learning how to unpack sexism in my own behaviour and learning how to be ally to women and other femme folks, as well as increasingly unleash my effeminate fabulousness. Here are some great reads as well as some useful ally stuff.

I’ll add new things as I come across them – my website (Sunny Drake www.sunnydrake.com ) will the most up-to-date place.

ONLINE ARTICLES & VIDEOS

 – Femme Invisibility: On Passing Right by Your People and Not Being Recognized

It’s so important to unlearn misogyny/ sexism in queer communities.

–  4 ways to support queer femmes

Good article on how to be an ally and challenge misogyny/ sexism, or at least how not to be an asshole.

 – Powerful Photos Fearlessly Redefine What It Means to Be LGBTQIA+

I love these images showing how wide ranging queer identities are.

Femme Lesbian invisibility Video

BLOGS & BOOKS

– Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity, edited by Chloe (with 2 dots above the e) Brushwood Rose and Anna Camilleri

– Piece of my Heart, anthologized by Makeda Silvera

– Dirty River by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

– Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities by Ulrika Dahl

– Femme: feminist lesbians & bad girls by Laura Harris & Elizabeth Crocker

– The Persistence of Desire by Joan Nestle

– Persistence edited by Zena Sharman & Ivan E. Coyote

– Heels on Wheels Roadshow http://www.heelsonwheelsroadshow.com/

MY BLOG ARTICLES:

I’ve also authored some relevant blog articles:

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

This is a conversation starter (continuer?) on how to be ally and challenge misogyny/ sexism, aimed primarily at trans-masculine, trans-male and masculine of centre peoples. It is equally application to other cis men unpacking misogyny/ sexism and working on ally skills.

And So Shall Our Heels Till the Earth

My Boyfriend is a Lady

About my experiences a queer effeminate man who is partnered to a woman and how people are constantly confused about my sexuality because of my effeminacy

the Boy T*t Finale Summer Collection

A series of photos celebrating my beautiful chest before I had top surgery through adorning it with fabulous outfits.

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Photo by Tania Anderson

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Sexual Assault Resources

Sexual assault is a very real issue in our communities. Dominant narratives are that strangers are mostly responsible, but many of us also experience sexual assault, violence and other abusive acts from lovers, partners and family. The times I’ve been sexually assaulted, I felt like I was responsible for what happened to me and felt so much shame that I found it difficult to talk with people. It’s had a huge effect on my health, sex and life. I wished I’d at least had some things to read. So, here are links to resources I’ve found useful particularly for femme, queer and trans survivors (and ally articles too). Please take care of yourself when reading.

I’ve also included some ally resources for working with those who have abused others. I believe our communities need to work together to deal with each other in responsible ways to unlearn abusive patterns, rather than isolating and shaming people, whilst centering both survivors and the overall well-being of our communities.

I’ll add new things as I come across them –my website (Sunny Drake www.sunnydrake.com ) will the most up-to-date place for resources, as well as other resources such as trans, femme, sexuality, queer stuff, anti-racism etc.

ONLINE RESOURCES

– 4 Ways to Overcome Self-Blame After Sexual Assault

Yup this is real. Many of us know on an intellectual level that we are not responsible for the acts of violence we receive, but how do we actually get ourselves to really shift that toxic self-blame and insidious internal dialogue? Some useful suggestions in this article. Authored by Sian Ferguson.

 – 11 Truths Every Survivor of Intimate Partner Violence Needs to Know

This link covers a lot of myths about violence and acts of abuse and how equally valid different survivor responses can be. This is essential in learning how to be a responsible ally too. Authored by Kai Cheng Thom, who’s writing I love.

– 6 Ways to Confront Your Friend Who’s Abusing their Partner

Good ally article, authored by the fabulous Kai Cheng Thom.

– 5 Common Ways Our Communities Fail to Address Intimate Partner Violence

Remembering that we all are collectively responsible for creating change and have the power to transform cultures of violence. Also authored by Kai Cheng Thom.

– Gaslighting

A useful resource on gaslighting –when someone acts to manipulate another into questioning their own sanity. It can be used to make people who are experiencing abuse doubt their own experiences and often end up feeling responsible and blaming themselves or even thinking they are the ones being abusive. Good ally article as well in terms of skilling up on gaslighting. Authored by Shea Emma Fett.

– 6 Ways to Have a Healthy and Enjoyable Sex Life After Surviving Sexual Trauma

The article also acknowledges the different ways that we can reclaim our sexuality. Particularly helpful for was the section on how we might act when we are triggered during sex – it doesn’t always look like disassociation or curling up in a ball. Sometimes I’ve struggled to understand when I’m triggered during sex  because a big part of my coping with sexual assault has been to minimise my own experiences and try to pretend to myself (and others) that nothing was wrong. Knowing when I am triggered can help me take power back to be able to be responsible for creating my own healthy sexuality. There are so many ways we can reclaim sexuality and have awesome sex lives.

– Your Child Should Never Be Forced to Hug Anyone (Yes, Including a Relative) – Here Are 7 Reasons Why

– Love letters for survivors

This was just what I needed to hear. Authored by many different survivors

Consent skills video

– Campaign resources

* Consent campaign images

* Poster series – no-one is entitled to your body

* Barriers to reporting acts of sexual assault

* Article about campus sexual assault – mainly I like the “40 powerful images of survivors” at the bottom of link.

BOOKS & BLOGS

The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence In Activist Communities, Both a book and a blog, authored by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Everyday Feminism has lots of great articles on a wide range or relevant topics authored by fabulous people.

MY BLOG ARTICLES:

Here’s some relevant blog articles authored by me:

– Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Whilst this is not primarily about sexual assault, I include this link because of the disproportionate amount of abuse and other shitty behaviour and acts of abuse that femme folks receive.

2 articles about drinking/sobriety – which are relevant given that alcohol (and other substances) can often be involved in acts of unconsensual sex, and abusive behaviour

Wet >< Dry

The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

– When a Man & a Woman Love Each Other Very Much

Looks at teenage sex and sexuality and how we don’t prepare young people for either staying safe or actually having fun. Many educational programs have finally started acknowledging that teenagers have sex, but an exclusive focus on STIs and birth control doesn’t prepare young people to enjoy their sexy times, have consensual sex and prevent sexual assault.

If you have any other resource suggestions, particularly ones that are femme, queer, sexuality and trans positive, please email me (Sunny Drake) at sunny@sunnydrake.com

 

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https://sunnydrake.wordpress.com/resources-links/sexual-assault/

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Wet >< Dry

 Juggling drinking/user rights AND sobriety

Image

I’m about to turn 2 years sober – woohoo! Summer was a challenging time to get sober, particularly with so many queer events in Toronto that involve booze. The warm months are now a time when I fluctuate between deep gratitude that I’m not drinking, and wistful fantasies of swilling beer on patios and swigging bourbon in the park. A lot of sober queer folks struggle to stay sober during Pride month, so I’m reflecting on what our community could do to hold us, whilst also holding space for others to have fun or cope with alcohol and drugs. Both sobriety AND drinking/user rights are access issues in social spaces and within our political movements.[1]

Whilst I love intentionally sober space (yay for Sober Pride!), I also want our communities to be able to hold space for those who use alcohol or drugs as medication or to cope with this shitty world. I’m horrified that visionaries such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson (both trans women of colour on the frontline of Stonewall) were banned from some LGBTQ spaces because of their drinking or using. The impacts of that likely involved further marginalisation for each of them, as well as a HUGE loss of wisdom and experience to the movements which they kick started.

Here’s the thing: there’s a very big difference between some people being intoxicated within a space versus a space that feels intoxicated. For me, when a critical mass of people at a party or event are drunk or high, it becomes an intoxicated space. If there are only a few drunk people around in an overall sober/ non-drunken space, it feels way more manageabe for me. So the more people who refrain from drinking and using, the more the space can hold both sober folks and some people who are drinking or using.

I get that drugs and alcohol can be about more than coping – they can be about many things including fun, which is super important too! I’m not suggesting that everyone stop using/drinking – just that those who don’t need it, be more intentional about how and when they drink or use. Let’s remember that doing stuff without drinking or drugs can be awesomely fun too! Enjoying music and company and dancing and art events and deep conversations and connections that you are more likely to remember. No checking your sent texts to see the embarrassing things you sent! No trying to remember if you did inappropriate things.

Given that many sexual assaults, violence and other non-consensual behavior have alcohol involved, drinking less can also mean there are more folks around to support a culture of consent and community safety.

Suggestions for organising Gatherings, Dinners & Events

Various friends including Clementine Morrigan, had some great suggestions:

  1. If your event will include alcohol, post that on event promotions (social media, fliers etc) along with other access info.
  2. Organise more drug and alcohol free events, but with no one turned away for showing up either high or drunk. Communication well with guests so that people don’t start policing or shaming the folks who may turn up high or drunk.
  3. Serve tasty non-alcoholic drinks that are treats – not just water and soft drinks/pop. Check out Liz Shield’s tasty recipes here
  4.  Considering many people use alcohol as a “social lubricants” (to cope with nervousness, anxiety, boredom etc), have alternative social lubricants – like activities or games. E.g. interactive food bars (tacos, waffles, burger bars…), conversation prompt games, arts and crafts areas, books, tarot cards, nail painting supplies, or whatever! (thanks Hannah Pepper-Cunningham for this suggestion)

Ally Suggestions for Individuals

Whilst event organisers have particular responsibilities, each and every one of us has a powerful role to play. So here’s my request for the Pride month (and beyond). Unless you need to use alcohol or drugs as self-medication/coping:

  1. Have some sober nights – like if you’re going to 4 events this month, how about choosing 2 at which you’ll be sober?
  2. When you are drinking or using, consume less and be mindful of what spaces you consuming them in.
  3. If you think it would be welcome, check-in with your sober buddies about whether they want a sober companion to go to an event with. Ask them if there’s any other support they might want or need.

The more people who refrain, the more we can hold community and space for both those who are sober AND those who use drugs and alcohol to cope.

Happy Pride!

photo by Tania Anderson

* I wrote another related article last year with more reflections on our communities and supporting sober folks – here’s the link: The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Mouth

[1]Thanks to Clementine, Geoff, Quinto & Amy for politicizing me around sobriety as an access need.

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Boy Tits in the Locker-room

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

Honouring the Living and Telling History like it is

Image On this day, Trans Day of Remembrance, I’m sending love to the families & friends of those trans* people, mostly trans women of colour and two spirit people, who have been murdered in the last year. At the advice of a dreamboat panel on Monday night with Monica Forrester, Reina Gosset and Janet Mock, just as importantly, I’m also celebrating and sending deep appreciation and love to the incredible trans women & two spirit people who are alive, surviving, transforming our communities and at the forefront of so many important political movements. Let’s not wait until our sisters pass or face serious violence to honour them. And let’s map out and celebrate the pivotal role trans women and two spirit people have and continue to have in our movements.

If you’d like to participate, please write a short shout out celebrating a trans woman of colour or two spirit person, who is alive, and post it to your facebook wall, twitter etc. Just make sure you know that they are publicly out as trans*!

Today, I’m giving a shout out to Monica Forrester for her tireless work with her community (check out her film “Remember the Living”). To Kiley May for being all round fabulous and making beautiful art. To Micha Cárdenas for the ways she expands my sense of what is possible. And to Miss Major for her fierce life-long activism.

It’s particularly important to honour and give credit to the people who have been historically and are currently at the forefront of our political movements, because of the ways trans women of colour and two spirit people have been written out of history. Their revolutionary organising has been the kickstart (and sustenance) of so many of our movements. Take Stonewall for example, widely cited as the “start” of the modern gay rights movement, although there were actually a lot of amazing things before that too, like the Compton’s Cafeteria riots. Let’s remember who was actually there, instigating this important movement: trans women, sex workers, street based folks – all people who don’t get credit for their revolutionary organising.

And yet so many white non-trans gay men and white trans men have now ended up with the resources, being publicly celebrated and in positions of power within our movements. Make no mistake – this was not accidental. It wasn’t an oversight. White gay men threw trans women under the bus, to present an image that would appeal to the mainstream in an attempt to win some concessions like gay marriage, the right to fight in armies, and anti-discrimination legislation for privileged gay people. “Look, we’re Tom and Bob, two white bankers in a monogamous relationship. We’re just like you!” And through other systemic power and privileges, white gay men and trans men had and continue to have access to so many more resources to put forth campaigns focused on their (my) needs, sidelining the important and revolutionary perspectives and priorities of trans women and two spirit people.

As discussed by Miss Major and other trans women activists, another way trans women got thrown under the bus has been the failure of LGBTQ movements to be able to organise with people who use substances. Some of the very women to whom we owe our ability to be out and proud as trans*, were in fact banned from LGBT spaces in their lifetimes. Syvlia Rivera was banned from an LGBT Centre in New York for her drinking and Marsha P Johnson for her drug use. We need to get waaaaaay better at organising spaces that can accommodate and centre the needs of both those who are sober (in recovery from drinking/ drug use) AND those who are still using/drinking. Similarly, the sex work-phobia that is rife among many trans and queer communities, pushes many of our fiercest, smartest activists to the margins.

In this context, it is a powerful act of resistance to trans-misogyny every time we tell history like it really was, and honour and resource those who are still doing some of the most revolutionary grassroots work.

On that note, let’s put our collective care and money behind honouring one of our Elders, Miss Major. Miss Major has paved the way for so many trans* people to be able to live with dignity and community. She was on the front line of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. A former sex worker and formerly incarcerated, she is a mother, a grandmother and since 2006 has been the Executive Director of the San Francisco based Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP). I’m inviting you to join together with me to become a monthly sustainer – donating an amount every month to support this fierce activist to get the housing, food and medical care she needs. Click on the link here to show your monthly love for a revolutionary Elder.

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Boy Tits in the Locker-room

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

The Brandy is Just for the Zit in my Throat…

Photo on 2013-08-02 at 21.20 #3 I was at a gathering a few weeks ago talking with two friends, one of whom I’d just met that evening. One of them mentioned that she had a zit on her face and our new friend offered a great home remedy, “just dab brandy on it”. After a moment’s awkward silence, me and my friend burst into laughter and proceeded to egg each other on with new rationales for getting brandy all over us, “well I think I have a zit right in my mouth, under my tongue”. We are both in recovery from drinking problems/ alcoholism.

Last month I celebrated my one year of sobriety. I’m grateful to finally be at the point where I can joke about it and talk freely with friends and family, instead of the crushing shame I used to feel. In fact, a little over a year ago, I woke up, half drowned in a pool of my own shame. I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on my journey to sobriety, look at community roles in drinking, harm minimisation and sobriety including challenging the ways that we fail each other and also the ways we are amazing.

Harm minimisation[1] works for many people and I wholeheartedly support it as a great option. For me, it wasn’t working anymore. I’d made (and broken) every cut-back-on-drinking type of rule imaginable. Rules like “no drinking before 5pm” became “do you think it’d be ok to make that 4pm”? Rules like “no sending texts, emails or posting on facebook when I’m drunk” became “except when I’ve read it several times and I think it’s really a good idea”. Mornings were punctuated by scouring the sent folders in my phone and email to see what mayhem I’d been up to.  The rules became increasingly ridiculous. “I can break one rule if I’m having a really shitty week or someone de-friends me on facebook”. (Ok, so that wasn’t actually a rule, but you get the point!)

I’d made bold declarations. I’d made threats to myself. I’d punished myself. I’d done sober “drinking break” periods to prove that I could, always falling straight back in to the deep end, noticing each time that the bottom was deeper than the last time. I even made a theatre show[2] about it! I hoped that creating a show would lessen my drinking, help me get through it. In reality, initially my drinking got worse. Making the show was such a stressful process that my drinking escalated. I couldn’t wait to go home after each rehearsal to my beloved bourbon.

Eventually, I came to the realisation that harm minimisation wasn’t working for me anymore and I wanted quit long term. In my first attempt, I remember thinking “what do you do when you break up with a person? Break-up sex!” Perfect! So, I attempted a last romantic evening with alcohol. I turned my phone off. Wrote a love poem to my darling bourbon. Carefully selected a music playlist. Then  luxuriated with my “last bottle” of bourbon. A week later, I was drinking again.

To be clear, I absolutely and adamantly support people’s right to use whatever coping strategy feels best to them at any given time. I also support the safety and happiness of the friends and family of people with substance challenges. Sometimes these can coexist well and other times people’s substance use can have great impacts on their loved ones. Conversely, the patronising and judgemental attitudes of the loved ones can be just as harmful to people struggling with alcohol or substances. There is a big difference between asking somebody to be accountable for their behaviour when it is affecting others, versus judgementally demonising a person’s choice to use alcohol or drugs to cope with (or enjoy) their life.

The clearest example I can give of this difference was in a conversation I had with a friend who came and saw my theatre show about drinking (and addiction to sex and work and cell phones…), X.

After the show, she confided in me that her partner had a drinking problem, which had crept in over the years. When she tried to bring it up with her partner, he was very defensive and irritated. I asked how his drinking was affecting my friend. There were certainly some things that he was doing that were not ideal, like spending their shared money on alcohol, but when we discussed it further, the real heart of the problem was that she felt ashamed about having a partner with a drinking problem. She went on to acknowledge that her partner was actually a lot more chilled out when drinking, and that it was a bunch of her own stigma around the alcohol that was the challenge. I encouraged her to unpack this further and take on doing the work of de-stigmatising alcohol and addiction, find ways to express support and keep an open mind and heart with her partner. Simultaneously, I encouraged her to stand strong (with my support if she wanted it) on asking for him to be accountable for his behaviour and make sure that her needs, safety and financial security was addressed. It turns out these things were not in significant competition.

So how do we support each other when our drinking gets out of hand?

Here’s my simplest declaration if you are want to be an ally, based on my experience: if we trust you won’t judge us, we will be more likely confide in you about our drinking problems. Let us feel your support, your open mindedness, and let us know that you have our backs. Let us feel your love. Then, and only then, can we begin to have conversations about whether we want to continue the same way, cut back, minimise harm or quit altogether, and figure out the strategies to get there.

As to what these strategies and approaches are: we need a myriad of approaches and tools and strategies at our disposal, because let’s remember that addiction happens with in the context of the stuff going on in people’s lives (like experiencing homophobia, racism, colonialism, transphobia, poverty, recovering from trauma or self medicating for stress and anxiety), so our approaches will look different depending on who we are and what’s going on. Here’s a few things I’ve learned from my experience.

 >> Don’t Judge Us

I think the single most important thing is being truly non-judgemental. I could sniff out disapproval and judgementalness from a mile away! Anyone who I perceived was likely to judge me, or who I heard belittling (even subtly) people with drinking or drug problems, instantly went on a mental list of people to hide my drinking problem from. Saying that you’re not judgemental is not enough. ALL of us have unpacking to do of our internal attitudes towards people with alcohol and substance problems, particularly towards drug users. It is not possible to grow up in the world that we do and be immune to the intense stigma of “junkies” being pretty close to the bottom of pile of society, with alcoholics somewhere down there as well. The single greatest barrier I had to getting sober was the intense shame I felt about my drinking. I literally started to drown in my shame. My shame meant that I denied my problem to myself for a long time, then hid it from all of you for even longer.

 >> Unpack Classist, Racist Ideas about Alcohol and Drug Use

The times when I finally started to speak about it, I had challenges even convincing some of my friends that I really and truly had an increasingly dangerous drinking problem. I don’t fit people’s racist, classist and colonial ideas of what an alcoholic looks like. I’m a white dude who managed to get a lot of “productive” shit done whilst desperately struggling with my alcohol problem. The fact that my friends didn’t really believe me was a shallow comfort to me (because I could stay in denial) but ultimately, not helpful.

Also, check your assumptions before making assessments about whether or not others are struggling with their alcohol or drug use. Remember how ideas about race, class, gender, disability and other identities play into how we view people. Many Black and Indigenous people and People of Colour get stereotyped as drunks and junkies. Did you know, for example, that more Aboriginal people in Australia abstain from alcohol than non-Aboriginal people? Yet if you listened to the media or the government’s racist intervention in the Northern Territory, you’d get a very different picture. I heard of an Indigenous friend saying, “my people don’t have a problem with alcohol. We have a problem with colonisation”. So, as a white person, if I actually want to be an ally, I should be challenging colonisation and supporting the autonomy and leadership of Indigenous communities, not trying to be the white savour swooping in “helping” with drinking problems.

There are many underlying issues which could be going on for someone when they are drinking. For me, it was a combination of things including dealing with sexual assaults and violence and covering/ uncovering being trans, as well as needing a tool to cope with stress.

 >>Support

Once I truly believed that someone was not judging me, offers of direct support were very useful. Not a carbon copy “one size fits all approach”, but actually genuinely enquiring what sort of support would be helpful. One of my friends recently asked me what I would like her to do if I started drinking again. She prefaced it by saying that she has a tendency to respect other people’s autonomy and under intervene. My partner asked the same thing. Because I trusted them both, I’ve been able to make a request which, whilst it felt humiliating and scary, also feels empowering. They’ve both agreed if they see me about to drink or with some alcohol in my hand, to physically take it away from me and do whatever they need to stop me from having access to the alcohol in that moment. Now that I made the request, and it actually wasn’t that big a deal, I’m reflecting on that feel so humiliating? Hello, internalised able-ism! So what if I can’t do it on my own? The idea that we can be self-sufficient is bullshit anyway. Even now, I just deleted this entire paragraph, because I was embarrassed for you to know that I need help and support. I put the paragraph back in because I’m committed to transforming that internalised able-ism and those feelings of humiliation, and changing the way I see myself and others. It’s ok to need help!

>> People who get it

Even though making my theatre show, X, initially escalated my drinking, ultimately it may have saved my life. It was the show that connected me to other people who struggle with addiction. My passion for my work and my community made me rise above the choppy waves of shame which were threatening to dunk me under for good. Whilst I’m clear that the actual theatre piece itself is very different to my own therapy, the process of researching and making the show was completely essential in me getting sober. I interviewed over 40 queer and trans people about addiction. Through performing X, a wide array of people have written me letters and talked to me about their struggles. They tell about the importance of having stories on stage in helping them to feel less isolated and ashamed. Well, my friends, your stories are just as important to me.

I will also be forever grateful to the generosity of the people I met at AA where I participated for the first three months of my sobriety. Whilst I have ultimately decided (for a variety of reasons) that AA is not a structure that works for me ongoingly, I don’t know if I could have gotten sober without the love and support I encountered in those dusty church basements and town halls.

The tips and tools were super useful, but the heart of what I got from connecting with other alcoholics was non-judgemental space to talk freely. I literally began to swim to the edge to the deep pool of shame that I’d been treading water in. I was finally able to climb onto the shore, soaked and gasping for air. Without fellow alcoholics, I would never have found my way to dry ground again. I got to see that sobriety wasn’t the boring, stagnant lifestyle that I’d feared. I was deeply inspired by the humility of my fellow alcoholics. What an awesome bunch of people we are! Like seriously. So many moving and beautiful stories.

>> Balancing Sober Space with User/Drinker Rights

So how do we create inclusive spaces that feel safe and welcoming for a whole myriad of people, both those who are in recovery and sober as well as those who can’t or choose not to function without alcohol and substances? I asked this question of a friend, Geoff, who is part of a Toronto-based sobriety collective, and he suggested taking a similar approach to many AA meetings- have more events that are designated sober space, no alcohol served, but that if somebody turns up drunk, they are not kicked out of the space and are still welcome.

I am horrified that some of my trans* heroes – those who have paved the way for many of us to be out as trans* and queer, were in fact banned and pushed out of spaces and movements because of their drug and alcohol use. Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson, both trans women of colour on the frontline of the 1969 Stonewall riots, were banned from various LGBTQ spaces including for their drinking and/or drug use. And these are people who we owe our lives to! These are women who fought, tooth and nail, for our rights. I’m ashamed to think that we fail so spectacularly as to push further to the margins our siblings and Elders who should have the warmest place by the fire. Let’s change this!

Dear People struggling with alcohol or drugs (whether still drinking/using or not),

I want to personally apologise for the times when I have not challenged my own judgmental attitudes about myself and you, because in truth, WE ARE AWESOME! We are living in some really shitty times, and I believe what we need the most to transform our world is creativity, strength and resilience – which you are the very embodiment of. You are necessary. You are loved. You are important. You are my heroes. You are part of the revolution. The revolution will not happen without you, because it can not, because you smart, fierce, awesome, and you are everywhere. THANKYOU!

All my love,
Sunny

I’ve written a follow-up article to this, Wet >< Dry

[1] Harm minimization or harm reduction refers to a range of strategies to reduce or minimize some of the harmful affects of drinking or drug use. Lots of government and conservative agencies/groups refuse to support harm minimization and are only in favour of abstinence (not using at all, or alcoholics not drinking at all), and not only stigmatise but criminalise harm minimsation – for example, many places won’t allow safe injection sites. This “abstinence is the only way” model can be used as a justification for the war on drug users which is in reality turned into a war on Indigenous and Black people (who actually use less drugs than white people, but get thrown in jail WAY more than white folks for using or dealing). Thanks to Chanelle for schooling me on these politics of criminalisation and harm minimisation.

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Boy Tits in the Locker-room

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

Femme-Ally Conversation Starter

I wrote the original version of this artilce for an amazing femme zine called “1-2-3 Punch”. This article is now in its 9th revision! I regularly revisit it as I get new feedback – or  when me and my friends identify other forms of femme-phobia.

This is a conversation starter (continuer?) about trans-masculine or trans-male peoples being femme-allies. I don’t believe it’s possible to arrive at a feminist, anti-racist masculinity or maleness as long as there is still the white supremacist ableist capitalist heteropatriarchy ruling the world. To me, evolving feminist, anti-racist masculinities are a process. A process filled with many responsibilities and joys and heartache and mess-ups and liberations and confusions.

Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge that I am a white Australian (English & Irish ancestry), grew up with a mixture of working class and middle class experiences. I am trans and a man. I identify as effeminate and femme. Small-ish in body size. Queer (not just in my choices of lovers). I’ve made many mistakes, including some of the things I point out in this article. I’m not pretending to be perfect or attempting to speak on behalf of other femmes, particularly not femme women. I don’t believe the massive unpaid work of educating masculine people and men/boys should be left to femmes, unless they choose to take that on in any given moment. This article is part of my attempt to be accountable, alongside others, for growing new feminist masculinities and feminist manhoods.

In this writing, I’m going to continue an open conversation with examples of how misogyny and femme-phobia play out in subtle and not-so-subtle ways within queer subcultures. I’ll follow this with suggestions for ways to be allies to femme-identified peoples.

Firstly, I want to briefly discuss the ways in which trans-masculine folks have some forms of gender privilege, including those who DON’T pass as cisgender (ie, when most people read them as women). Hopefully it is obvious how trans-men who pass as cisgender (ie, most people read them as non-trans men) get a whole set of extra privileges (um, it’s called P-A-T-R-I-A-R-C-H-Y). If you’re read as a dude, then you’re likely to get at least part of the package of economic, social and political privileges – how much you get will depend on an array of factors such as your race, class, ability, body size, how “masculine” you are, whether you are read as gay or straight etc. There has been plenty written about how some men get privileges, however, there seems to be more confusion is about how non-passing trans-men and trans-masculine peoples have privilege. If most of the world reads you as female, then what privileges do you get?

>> Well firstly: Enter, the long-time awkward unwelcome guest inside many people who experience some form of oppression (drum-roll): INTERNALISED OPPRESSION! And it’s close buddy INTERNALISED PRIVILEGE. Most of us are steeped in patriarchal ideas about gender roles and a gender hierarchy, and racial hierarchy, class hierarchy etc, from the day we were born. Actually – some even before birth if ultra-sounds announced “it’s a girl/boy” before even popping out. These ideas, the dominant ideologies, are so incredibly pervasive that they seep out in subtle (and not so subtle) ways that can be difficult to spot. Clearly, many people who identify as women carry around shitty messages about their worth and their capabilities. Not to mention the ongoing external signals given by other people (e.g. a man and woman go to pick up a car from the mechanic. The mechanic talks to the man, even when it’s not his car and he doesn’t know anything about cars anyway). Some trans-men or trans-masculine people have complex gender histories and may have internalised some of this sexism and misogyny, thus carrying around some of these obstacles too. However, many of us also some or entirely a set of other attitudes and beliefs which we’ve internalised through having self socialised as masculine or male from a young age (more about this later). Because we were internally identifying as male or masculine, we were choosing to socialise ourselves according to the external messages we were getting about how men or masculine people supposed to behave. Many of us who present as more masculine or adopt some boy/male things such as “he” as a pronoun, or mannerisms which provide social indicators of being a “boy” like clothing, hairstyles, body posture etc, also get responded to by others in particular ways. Within a patriartchy, these things tell us (and others) that we are capable, that we can work on cars and take up space. Still not convinced? There are many examples below of how I see these dynamics play out.

Privilege is a sticky beast. I hear a lot of people say “I’m just choosing to not take my privileges. I live outside the system”. The thing is: privilege is not something that you take, it is something that is given to you. So even if you don’t want it, you will experience it to whatever degree your particular combination of identities and socio-political context give it to you. So, those of us who have or gain privilege, need to pull our socks up and get on with the business of centre-ing people who are most affected by sexism- including femme-phobia and trans-misogyny, especially those who also experience racism, ableism, classism and other nasties. “Privilege” can be a loaded word to use – I don’t want to in any way invisiblise the massive strengths of communities who experience oppression.

I’d also like to point out the different set of privileges afforded to white trans-men, ie, having some form of access to the privileges given the white cisgendered man, whereas trans-men of colour have to deal with a different set of shit (e.g. increased targetting by police and criminalisation). I also think that white privilege is very relevant to some of the examples that follow, and it’s difficult to separate out whether white trans-men are behaving that way because of whiteness or man-ness/masculinity (or class, ability or other factors too).

Before I launch into ample examples of ways we trans-men (and non-trans men) and/or masculine folks need to get it together, I want to explicitly acknowledge that it’s a bloody hard road being trans*, and this rant is in no way intended to publicly humiliate or isolate trans-men or trans-masculine folks. Full credit to all those who have had such courage to assert their (our) identities (even it it’s just to yourself) – this is a really unfriendly world to be trans* in. Even in politicised queer subcultures, transmen and trans-masculine folks still experience a bunch of oppression, for example, physical and verbal harassment, not having our gender recognised or respected or being judged for choices to alter or not alter bodies, difficulty accessing healthcare and employment etc. I don’t want this article to feed into any trans-phobia or unuseful stereotypes about trans-men. We do need to support each other and nurture each other AND hold each other accountable.

Ample Examples. So, into the examples of what I’ve been noticing and talking about with friends in terms of how misogyny plays out in the actions of many trans-men and trans-masculine peoples. Of course, much of this applies to non-trans-men (cisgendered men) as well.

  • How many incidences I’ve seen or heard of trans men harassing, objectifying, assaulting (physically, verbally or sexually) femmes and women. Frequently trans-men seem to under-estimate how much we may have internalised messages about ownership over women and femme’s bodies. Intimate partner violence is real and often goes unaddressed because of these internalised messages because we have built up ideas that trans-men are less sexist than non-trans-men.
  • Some specific examples around dating and femme sexuality:

-I am absolutely appalled that this is even necessary to state; any form of overt or covert suggestion that a femme has provoked sexual harassment, assault or objectification is DISGUSTING. Don’t say it doesn’t happen, I’m thinking about specific examples. Beyond addressing this, I think trans-masculine people have a responsibility to recognise the ways femme sexuality has been contained, squashed, targeted, stereotyped and owned and take steps to pro-actively challenge this.

-conversely, invisibilising femme desire and incorrectly assuming all femmes want a relationship/partnership rather than hot slutty times.

-the tendency of trans-men to expect femmes to emotionally tend to the relationship and do the lion’s share of work when shit hits the fan; and then have the nerve to turn around and tell women or femmes that they are bringing drama or being “too much”! “Drama” is a word that has been used to silence and ridicule women’s feelings and invisibilise emotional labour. So seriously dudes, when you call women or femmes “drama”, you are being sexist.  There are other ways to negotiate different styles of communication. If you’re thinking she’s drama, I would challenge you to look at who’s doing the emotional labour. Are they being drama or are you being emotionally careless? Other loaded words which have been used to humiliate, silence and control women and femmes include: “stupid”, “hysterical”, “crazy”, “sensitive”, “emotional”.

  • Some additional examples around trans-misogyny

–        how trans movements (and in fact gay/queer rights movements) have frequently been initiated and led by trans women (especially racialised trans women) and then taken over and co-opted by white trans men (and/or white non-trans gay men). Consequently movements frequently become derailed and centred around white trans-masculine issues such as top surgery fundraisers and yet another I’m-so-hot-look-at-me-I’m-a-transman-zine (which are great, just wishing we similarly celebrated the hotness of transwomen). This sidelines the super important issues trans-female-spectrum people disproportionately face such as violence, discrimination in employment & housing, criminalisation, sex worker rights etc…

–         If one more person says to me that trans-women take up too much space because they were sociliased male, I think I may vomit all over them. But I’ll be a little more diplomatic and suggest a game of Pin The Tale on the Stereotype instead. Firstly, socialisation is a complex thing. People pick up socialisation cues based on how they internally identify as well as based on how people externally attempt to socialise them. I know that as a trans guy, even though I didn’t necessarily label myself a “boy” as a kid, I remember always listening to what my teachers/friends/family/tv said about boys and relating that to myself. Secondly, the transphobic and misogynist cultures I grew up in absolutely do NOT build a sense of entitlement in trans women – anyone read as male who has any feminine or womanly presentation, traits or identification gets that ridiculed, punished and beaten out of them. This is hardly likely to build up someone to be able to speak boldly in groups. Also, saying a trans-feminine spectrum person takes up too much space is potentially classist, racist and cis-sexist. Classist & racist: some raised poor, working class and/or people of colour femininities are louder than their middle class or rich counterparts (the ideals many white dominated activist groups run on are very white middle class/rich in terms of what is considered polite and a good way of working – these need to change too!). And it’s cis-sexist to assume someone is louder because they are trans rather than because of any number of their other identities or even just their individual personality. Lastly, I believe both misogyny and trans-phobia are more often the root of this sort of comment. Stereotypes are often created to justify unjust behaviour and attitudes and cover over fear – like if someone is threatened by trans-women because they are trans-phobic or have internalised misogyny, it is much easier to come up with excuses like “they take up too much space” than acknowledge those fears or -isms. In the event that she is taking up a lot of space at your meeting, chances are it’s because you won’t open your group to her, or are subtly ostracising her or because she can tell that you don’t consider her a “real” woman, or because she’s uncomfortable with how you’re glaring at her pants to assess what bits she has.

–        How trans-men are often celebrated and fetishized within queer subcultures, whereas trans-women are often isolated and excluded. This is both misogynist and transphobic. Misogyny because: anybody femme and/or woman identifying is seen as lesser, while anybody masculine and/or man/boy identifying is celebrated. Trans-phobia because maybe some queer feminist communities don’t count trans-women as “real women” and therefore exclude them because they are still the “enemy” (ie, “men”). Similarly this attitude doesn’t count trans-men as “real men” and therefore accepts them as still part of the women’s community, whilst ironically elevating their status due to internalised misogyny.

–        How 95% of the time we say “transphobic”, we actually should be saying “trans-misogynist”. I’m not saying trans-masculine people don’t experience huge amount of discrimination, just trans feminine people get the brunt of the most violent and pervasive forms of it.

  • Not respecting femme-only space as valid and important
  • Failing to see femme organising as revolutionary. AND having the gall to claim credit for long-time femme tactics and wisdom, like the importance of relationship building in movements. Because men have such a long history of taking credit for women’s labour, ideas and resources, it’s essential to acknowledge women and femmes.
  • Mocking, belittling, teasing and calling some types of femininity shallow or vain – like make-up, packing 7 pairs of shoes for a week long trip or referring to high-heels as impractical.
  • How so many trans-men I know get away with being sexually and emotionally irresponsible and unaccountable in similar ways to non-trans-men. I have directly noticed this in my own attitudes in certain situations, with a tendency to write-off the behaviour of trans-men (e.g. “I didn’t expect any better of him”), whereas being hurt in the same situation by the behaviour of women or femme folks (e.g. “She should have known better”).
  • How I still see mostly women and femmes doing the dishes (I mean, really? This is so basic I’m almost embarrassed to point it out!). Even if I have been messy around the house for my entire life, including when I identified (by default) as female, increasingly uncovering a masculine and/or man identity brings certain privileges (e.g. an expectation that I won’t clean) and therefore brings an increased responsibility to address those privileges. Any roles that perpetuate privileges, power dynamics and stereotypes need to be carefully negotiated with all who are directly or indirectly participating (e.g. this doesn’t mean if you’re a trans-guy you absolutely have to do the dishes – but if you want to contribute in other ways instead, then negotiate it!). I also want to point out that some femmes may love doing the dishes and shouldn’t be judged as unradical for wanting to perform “traditionally feminine” roles. In fact, often those roles typically associated with women are seen as lesser or degrading work, effortless, natural or invisible – this needs to change.
  • How emotional labour, care and support roles in the communities I live in are mostly done by women and femmes. I think trans-men who request and utilise the support of femmes and women have a particular responsibility to be intentional with that support and ensure that dynamic is not only named, but negotiated as well. Once again, the problem is not when femmes choose to do care work – the problem is the assumption/abuse of this relationship and the lack of trans-masculine folks valuing and/or prepared to do this work themselves.
  • How trans-men get to fix things. I’ve noticed a sharing of power and skills from non-trans men to trans-men that often doesn’t happen between those two groups and women/ femmes. I challenge all trans-men to not forget how hard it may have been (for some of us) to carve out a space in the woodwork lab at school, or under the bonnet of a car with the dudes or building something for the local activist fundraiser. But at the same time – don’t assume that femmes wouldn’t know how to fix things or over-insist that they should know– some may not want to (just like some trans-masculine folks don’t want to – frankly I’d prefer someone else to fix my bicycle!).
  • How femme trans-men or trans-men who choose to not conform to expected models of masculinity or who don’t medically transition are sometimes subtly seen as “fakes” or “not really boys” or “gutless”, or at least as lesser in some way.

Being a femme-ally:a conversation starter about some stuff men and/or masculine peoples can do to challenge misogyny, be feminist and be allies to femmes (and also to other women, whether or not they are femme). Some of these things are interpersonal allyship, and others about organizing and doing solidarity work.

 

  • Learn about feminist and femme and women’s (trans and non-trans) struggles and histories. ESPECIALLY Indigenous and women of color feminist writers. Set up a reading/ discussion group. Read the words of femme/women activists. There are so many amazing femmes and women who have been doing a lot of work for so many years now – pay attention and learn! It is not the responsibility of femmes and women to educate other folks, however, some may be happy to be on an informal or formal advisory group (especially if you actually build relationships with femmes based on respect and accountability) – to provide suggestions, be a guest speaker and make sure that the group doesn’t sail off into irrelevance. Consider first volunteering and supporting femme/ women’s collectives, individuals and organisations before asking them to support your learning group.
  • Do anti-racist work. Racism is so inextricably part of femme-of color oppression in queer communities (not to mention in the mainstream), that addressing racism in queer communities is completely essential and central to femme-of-color solidarity.
  • Directly support femmes and women in your life. Listen to their experiences and try to understand how their oppression and marginalisation is different from your own. Then if you think it is appropriate, ask them if/ how you could support them (but remember it is not their responsibility to educate you).
  • Do the fucking dishes! (and clean the toilet/mop the floor/cook/caretake etc). Or explicitly negotiate other roles that are mutually agreed upon by all involved. (Note: negotiation means C-O-M-M-U-N-I-C-A-T-I-N-G about something and making sure everyone has equal power to say what they really want/need, and that a solution is agreed upon). This is so obvious I almost didn’t want to write it (because I think some trans-men also think that’s all there is to being a femme ally). And make a point of stepping back and looking at your behaviour in various situations (household, work, encounters with strangers/ friends/ lovers), and thinking about how your interactions/choices/communication/behaviour was influenced by your perceptions of other people’s gender identity and expression.
  • Don’t assume all femmes identify as women. Don’t assume all women identify as femmes (even if they wear makeup or skirts). And don’t assume you are the only one with a radical gender identity. Learn about how being femme is political. Be aware that femme can mean different things to different folks who identify as femme, and make space for various kinds of femme identities.
  • Don’t assume a femme person presents their body for your visual pleasure. Femmes may not want you to comment on how gorgeous they are, or be unconsensually touched (including hugged).
  • Don’t fetishize femininity or femmes in nonconsensual ways.
  • Proactively build alliances that both explore and support the similarities in struggles between the trans-masculine and femme/ women’s (trans and non-trans) movements. Acknowledge the differences and seek to figure out what being a good ally means.
  • Seek to understand how all the different systems of oppression are linked – find the intersections with other struggles – don’t just think about gender – think about class, race, age, sexuality, body size, ability, history of abuse etc. There are some good resources out there – find them! www.coloursofresistance.org  and www.collectiveliberation.org are great starts. Then spend a certain proportion of your time making linkages between different struggles and supporting other causes.
  • Centre the people most affected by oppressions – femmes, women (trans-women and non-trans-women), Indigenous people, people of color, queers, people with disabilities, fat folks, refugees, working class peoples etc. “Centre-ing” means those people are key decision makers and have a crucial role in shaping the movements. Don’t assume you know what is best for people other than yourself.
  • Work with people within your own layers of privilege (e.g. if you are a white middle-class trans-boy, work with other middle class folks/ white folks/ trans-men to challenge misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, racism etc) AND support the movements of people with less privilege (e.g. volunteer to do the boring office work 4 hours a week with a local femme or women’s collective or organisation).

About Making Mistakes: I don’t claim to be any sort of expert on being a feminist dude. I’ve been schooled by listening to femmes and the generosity of so many amazing femmes in my life – lovers, friends, my heroes and work-mates. Dudes – I can 100% guarantee we WILL mess up. It’s not possible to be perfect. So, we also need to learn how to be accountable for making  mistakes. For example:

  1. deeply listening without defensiveness to the experiences of and impact on the person who was hurt (if they want to share this),
  2. clearly acknowledging how you messed up (without making excuses or subtly expecting support for how bad you feel about it),
  3. apologising (that’s right, take a deep breath and practice in front of the mirror. “I’m sorry”. “I’m sorry”. “I’m sorry”. I know it’s complex, but you can do it. Keep breathing).
  4. doing work to come up with suggestions of ways you could address your behaviour/ mistake/ make amends,
  5. listening to the wishes of the person who was hurt,
  6. taking the agreed upon steps,
  7. and having a process for re-checking in over time (for example – ‘would you like me to bring this up again or would you like to be in control of when we check in about it?’).
  • This process may be very quick if the hurt was minor, or you may need to invest a bunch of energy over a long period of time if the issue was more serious. Sometimes the person may not want to have a process with you, in which case you will need to respect their wishes (including no contact), reflect on and modify your own behaviour so that it doesn’t happen again. There are some great resources on accountabilty, mostly for sexual assault incidents – but similar principles can be used in any case where someone has caused someone else harm). For example: the last chapter in the Color of Violence anthology and the resource list on the INCITE! webpage http://www.incite-national.org/index.php?s=114
  • Develop your misogyny radar (both for your own behaviour as well as the behaviour of others) and be prepared to give constructive feedback to people in loving, supportive ways. In my experience, this often works best when done within friendships, or from people who have similar identities/ privileges (plus, it shouldn’t be the responsibility of femmes/ women to call this sort of behaviour out!).  This may involve:
    • one on one conversations (“hey, are you open to hearing some feedback on something I noticed? Well, I’m telling you this because I respect/love/like you. When you said/ did _________, I wonder if you considered how your gender/ racial/ class identity played into that…”)
    • writing a letter to the person
    • researching and sending people articles written by others
    • approaching someone else (another ally, a person’s trusted friend/ workmate etc) to support in addressing the person
    • bringing in a guest speaker/ articles/ processes/ workshops to address the general issue (without addressing the specific incident)
  • Receive criticism with full attention and without defensiveness. Even if you initially feel like the criticism is not true – resist the urge to write it off or be defensive. How about trying: “thanks for the feedback, I’m going to take some time to think about that and then respond to you”. Never ever ever dismiss someone who experiences oppressions (or even vaguely may be experiencing oppression) as overly sensitive. Ever. No matter how much you disagree with what they are saying, just don’t ever ever say it because chances are there is at least some truth in what they are saying and “You’re being overly sensitive” has been used to silence oppressed people for so long. People with privilege are trained to not see it. That’s part of how it gets perpetuated. Just because you can’t see how what the person is saying is true, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

The Flip Side: I also want to say how much I appreciate that so many femmes are kick-ass allies to trans-masculine folks. THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT AN EXCUSE (warning: kids, do not try this at home – ok?): I have often wondered if the actions of some trans-men or trans-masculine folks is a reaction to not being validated as a real “man”, or really “masculine” (often even with queer subcultures). Sometimes I wonder if I and others are tempted to replicate patriarchal versions of manhood and masculinity in an attempt to get some validation. So, even though ultimately it is totally up to us trans-men and trans-masculine folks to wean ourselves off these misogynist behaviours, also it is greatly appreciated when anyone (femme or non-femme) goes out of their way to change their conceptions of what a “man” or “masculine” means, and creates a little more space for all of us. I find women and femmes have often been my best allies for which I am deeply grateful.

And Guess What? in my opinion, this work is not tedious or boring or arduous – it’s exciting! I mean, I get to be a part of directly challenging patriarchy. Hell yer. Sign me up! I get to participate in carving out a new man, a new masculine. In fact, a myriad of new ways to be man or masculine through visioning and living and growing the new always-learning-feminist-man I am. Hooray! Who else is in? And how?

Thanks. A massive thanks to all the people who have contributed ideas for this article, particularly the amazing femmes I am lucky to have in my life.

Feedback: This article is now in it’s 9th edition in part because people keep sending great feedback on things to refine/change/add! Please feel free to distribute this article to others, and send any feedback or if anyone is interested in collaborating on further resources: sunny@sunnydrake.com

I also run workshops relevant to this article:

Feminist Masculinities Workshop: Explores the question: what is a feminist masculine person? Relationships, emotional labour, consent, challenging femme-phobia, masculinism and trans-misogyny (transphobia/ sexism faced by trans women), fashion, accountability, care, cake baking, political priorities…? Hands on activities, presentation and discussion about how dudes, butches, masculine women, trans-men, cisgendered men, males, bois, genderqueers can be feminist. The workshop comes from an intersectional analysis including class, race and disability. People of all genders welcome.

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the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

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Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website