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.

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Financially supporting trans women’s access to surgery

Here’s a short blurb I wrote in 2011 as part of fundraising for a friend who was having bottom surgery, about why I believe it is super important for cisgendered people and trans men to support trans women/ trans-feminine spectrum people in accessing surgery (when they choose it).

▪               Trans women, especially those who don’t pass as cisgendered (ie, trans women who get read/interpreted by most of society as “men”) face huge barriers to finding employment due to prejudice. They may also face racism, classism or able-ism. So their job options can be very limited and therefore it’s harder to pay the bills, let alone fund expensive surgery.

▪               Because the medical industrial complex sucks! Many trans women are made to jump through years worth of hoops and red tape to prove that they should be allowed to have surgery. Having just been through this system as a trans-guy – my psychiatrist said “most of the FTMs (female-to-male) are a lot more straight-forward cases than the MTFs (male to female)”. BULLSHIT! The medical industrial complex, like the rest of mainstream Australia, does a lot of serious hating on trans women. Apparently one of the factors which slows down psychiatrists from approving surgery, is trans women having depression or anxiety. Is it any wonder a bunch of trans women are depressed when they get so much hatred thrown their way, beat up, denied jobs, called names and then made to tell their stories over and over to the boring cisgendered psychiatrist for years. (NOTE: recognising the discrimination faced by many transwomen doesn’t mean others should just assume it sucks to be a trans-woman – it rocks to be a trans-woman! Just the discrimination sucks). Cisgendered people act as gatekeepers and attempt to make every decision for trans people. Their decisions are greatly shaped by trans-misogyny (like the broader world) and can make many trans-women jump through very narrow definition of what it means to be trans – what the fuck would they know? This sucks. So, fundraising for trans women can give them more control over their transition through having money and therefore access to more options (like going to Thailand for the surgery, where there is less red tape).

▪               Because trans women bear the brunt of some of the most disgusting discriminations of the patriarchy. Levels of violence & assault against trans women are horrific. They are often doubly punished by then also being left out or violently marginalised by so called “feminist” and other movements e.g. being barred from accessing “women’s” shelters & services. This is blatantly anti-feminist! Many “feminist” movements are hung up on the notion of trans women having been socialised as male and therefore having male privilege. The transphobic and misogynist cultures I grew up in absolutely do NOT build a sense of entitlement/privilege 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 with a sense of entitlement or privilege. Also, socialisation is a complex beast – a person picks up socialisation as much from how they identify inside, ie we have agency in how we socialise ourselves. Many trans women who identified that way from an early age, are likely to have picked up a lot of female socialisation because they were looking for the education and cues with which they identified. So I don’t see much privilege going on for trans women – especially trans women of colour, raised poor/ working class, trans women with disabilities etc. So, since they have to deal with heaps of shit, supporting trans women in ways that feel good to them (in this case – funding the surgery) is essential.

▪               Because access to surgery is a class issue. It sucks that rich trans people (who still have the support of their rich families or have miraculously managed to access well paying work) can get easier access to surgery. It’s up to us as a community to collectively be a “family” who raises money for poor/ working class/ financially struggling trans women.

▪               Because misogyny exists even in our queer/ radical bubbles. A little exercise: count how many fundraisers you’ve heard of for trans men. Now count how many you’ve heard of for trans women. Get the point? And that was just for starters – the way trans women are often ostracised, whereas trans men are celebrated (and even fetishised) is gross. Let’s change that.

So, these are some of the reasons why I’m giving money to my friend for her bottom surgery.  Also, because I like her a bunch and she is smart, hot, fabulous, funny and a good friend of mine.

Some other popular blog articles:

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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