Some November readings

My November readings were a bit all over the place, but I can promise you, I read a lot of good stuff and had trouble narrowing this list down to something manageable. I tried to group this by themes and gave up, so we go in this order – from identity politics to the amazing Marsha P. Johnson, and everything in between, from the harms of identity policing to the dangers of white saviors. Hard, but good reads.

 

 

Not all politics is identity politics

https://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/not-all-politics-is-identity-politics/

 

“Where the politics of identity divides, the politics of solidarity finds collective purpose across the fissures of race or gender, sexuality or religion, culture or nation. But it is the politics of solidarity that has crumbled over the past two decades as radical movements have declined. For many today, the only form of collective politics that seem possible is that rooted in identity.”

 

 

To the 53% and beyond…

https://talynn.tumblr.com/post/166289043334/to-the-53-and-beyond

 

“We gave you the answers to your questions years ago. We cannot save you. You worked too hard to undermine our voices. Your silence in the face of our abuses quieted our voices of solidarity. We are untrustworthy voices of our oppression, a trust you worked to undermine. So now you need to save yourselves.”

 

 

I was a Trans TERF

https://medium.com/@kitmalone/i-was-a-trans-terf-29ed9f21e5ab

 

“I’ve understood that I deserve safety. But more importantly, I’ve understood that lots of people deserve safety who don’t get it.”

 

 

Interrogating the Whiteness of the Asexual Community

http://theasexual.com/article/2017/10/25/interrogating-the-whiteness-of-the-asexual-community

 

“And once a space is dominated by whiteness, it frequently become self-containing. Whiteness itself seems to always operate in self-containing ways that exclude and erase the experiences of people of color. As such, those who are asexual today may continue to see asexuality as an identity largely for white people tomorrow (whether consciously or unconsciously), and the cycle may continue to loop as new ace people gain access to the identity.”

 

 

The whiteness of ‘coming out’: Culture and identity in the disclosure narrative

http://archermagazine.com.au/2017/07/culture-coming-out/

 

“Mainstream queer narratives are often shaped by gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk’s edict to “burst down those closet doors once and for all”. Ideas of visibility and the closet have largely been shaped by white America and the gay liberation movement of the 1970s.

 

Refusing to subscribe to this narrative gives us space to connect with our gender, our culture and our sexuality on our own terms.”

 

 

Patients and Providers: The Mental Health Provider’s Role

https://genderqueer.me/2017/10/30/fv-trans-mental-health-providers-role/

 

“I use this example not to minimize the kind of pain and suffering that dysphoria causes, but to make the case that patients should not be set up to compete with each other based on who is more convincing at communicating their distress. In addition, a person’s gender story and awareness are not without context, including cultural and familial norms and the level of safety in exploring, expressing, or acknowledging (even to oneself) a gender that differed from expectations.”

 

 

Learning to Save Ourselves

https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/learning-to-save-ourselves

 

“Books, television and film have ingrained audiences with the belief that a white person, often a man, will swoop in and, being a man of “principle,” save the day. I had forgotten how much Atticus Finch fits into (and perhaps is one of the early examples of) this trope. He is a strong, idealistic figure and, because he values the black community of Maycomb, he somehow proves to the reader that the black community of Maycomb is worth valuing. His approval of the novel’s “clean-living” black people somehow makes their lives worthwhile, when they weren’t before.”

 

 

Power to the People: Exploring Martha P. Johnson’s Queer Liberation

https://www.out.com/out-exclusives/2017/8/24/power-people-exploring-marsha-p-johnsons-queer-liberation

 

“I’ve been looking at that photo a lot recently. Every time I hear about another murdered trans woman of color (at least a dozen times this year already), I pull it up. Every time I see a new homage to Marsha P.—a documentary, a short film, a paean to her presence at the Stonewall riots—I look at it again. I’m trying to see how we got here, to a place where we can memorialize Johnson as the “Saint of Christopher Street” yet ignore the consistent violence that her trans daughters and granddaughters still face. How we can fetishize Johnson’s presence at Stonewall, yet ignore the demands she made of the queer community and the world at large.”

 

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Some September Readings

tl;dr here are some interesting things I’ve read this month!

One of the things I’d like to start doing is providing a short list of some interesting things I’ve read. Trying to make a difference is as much about sharing what other people are saying as it is about saying your own thing. All four of these articles are things that link to me personally through my interests, identities, or struggles, but are said in ways I could never do and written by people who can write these perspectives. This is super important. I don’t want to make long lists because I find them overwhelming and because I am a strong believer that really spending the quality time with one good reading is much more effective for learning than glancing over huge amounts of lists, but I hope, for anyone that wants a little more reading from a new perspective (or to just have an idea of the things I read that are stewing in the back of my mind while I write my blog posts), this can be a small, useful list of good reading.

 

It’s time for goth culture to embrace the identities of all of its members

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2017/06/23/goth_culture_needs_to_embrace_the_gender_identities_of_all_its_members.html

 

“An aesthetic built on subverting gender norms also reinforces those same norms by constantly referencing them, and whether one’s gender presentation is read as subversive or subpar still depends on how digestible it is to mainstream society.”

 

As one of those trans people that found their gender presentation via the goth community and aesthetic (and then kind of left the space? I’m still not sure where I stand in terms of gothiness at the moment), this was a super important and meaningful read in my life and I figured it could be interesting to anyone else who happens to share even a little bit of gothiness.

 

Self love, body acceptance and other ways to get famous

https://www.scottee.co.uk/single-post/2017/08/27/Self-Love-Body-Acceptance-and-Other-Ways-to-get-Famous

 

“Whats often ignored by the cis, white, middle class, able bodied elite who make up the bulk of body bloggers is the ability to be body confident is often majorly affected by privilege, capitalism, access and hegemonic masculinity.”

 

Scottee is someone I’ve secretly admired from afar since I discovered his existence (and got a tiny one-week workshop with him, nowhere near enough time), so I highly recommend going and reading everything he was written ever. This particular post stuck out to me from my own experiences in how “trans visibility” on social media has often turned into a similar phenomenon – white, able-bodied, skinny, masculine-leaning, afab folks in sweater vests claiming they’re challenging gender by making people ask them if they’re a boy or a girl. It’s well-meaning, but reinforcing the gender norms they’re trying to challenge and has always made me feel like an outsider. As Scottee says, it’s time to up the game.

 

 

Refusing to tolerate intolerance

https://medium.com/@juliaserano/refusing-to-tolerate-intolerance-f24c1bff513f

 

“Calls for ‘more speech’ also suffer from the misconception that we, as a society, are all in the midst of some grand rational debate, and that marginalized people simply need to properly plea our case for acceptance, and once we do, reason-minded people everywhere will eventually come around. This notion is utterly ludicrous. Prejudice and discrimination are not driven by rationality or reason.”

 

Julia Serano is another one of those people that I deeply admire (and have not had the chance to meet, sadly…someday…I can only hope). This is a response to conversations around “free speech”, particularly with awareness of Charlottesville and Milo Yiannopoulos and general current events (and our increasing failure to condemn hate speech). Serano has a remarkable ability to take things I know  and turn them into things I can explain. So, if you’re like me and sometimes struggle to explain things like “Nazis are bad” because it seems so absolutely obvious (I mean, seriously?), this can break it down for you, deepen your comprehension of the issue, and give you fuel for fighting back.

 

 

Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies as reclamatory fan work

http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/1032

 

“By reframing these earlier works of literature as part of a longer history of women’s writing that also involves the works being done today within modalities of fan writing, and by reconsidering fan works as part of a historical continuum of women’s writing, we, much as de Pizan herself did, create a theoretical space that historicizes, contextualizes, and indeed valorizes women writers of both fannish and nonfannish works.”

 

Yeah, that quote is a lot of academic gibberish, but, truth be told, I found this article decently accessible in terms of language. As the nerd I am and the fan I am, I absolutely love the Journal for Transformative Works. Not only is it free academic articles about fanwork, which is pretty damn, it’s pretty radical in how it works to avoid the gatekeeping that  is inherent in most academic work. I also have a weakness for women writers, particularly ones that go “fuck this man-thing, I’m going to write a better thing now” (someday maybe I’ll write out all my love for the original fairy tale authors of 17th century France). So, having never actually heard of Christine de Pizan (a travesty, I blame my terrible teachers from my undergraduate degree), this was probably the most exciting piece of academic literature I read this month. And, what this paper argues, is that applying new modes of study to look at older works by women offers a new perspective that we wouldn’t have otherwise, which is super important when we consider how many older models were developed to specifically look at male authors.

 

The new blog context

Tl;dr Some things have changed since I started on this blogging adventure. There have been a lot of challenges in being openly trans on my dance course, but I’ve also found a supportive community outside of my course that gave me the courage to do this. 

April 2016, I finally got the courage to start a blog, but didn’t have the courage to inform the world about it. You can read about why I started on this blogging thing in the first place here.

 

February 2017, I decided that I did want an actual audience for my words and thoughts. Am I ready? Probably not. But here’s some of the new context I’m working within and why I’ve made this decision:

 

I dove headfirst into the Real Dance World, as I’d intended and found that, even as I informed my teachers and classmates of my transness with positive results, the place I studied was not ready to take the necessary steps to support my transness. Instead, they simply wanted me there in the name of diversity and inclusion (not a surprise, really, but still a frustration). As soon as I raised an issue back in November, all doors closed. Due to lack of engagement on the part of one of the most responsible people, the institution’s interest in maintaining its reputation and incapability of owning up to mistakes, and the unnecessary hurdles in place to keep students from making formal complaints, I am still fighting that battle.

 

I go to a school where I don’t know which of my teachers decided that ignoring a trans person in order to maintain the institution’s reputation was a better choice than apologising.

 

Yes, I’ve learned a lot. Yes, I’ve had some amazing teachers (major shoutout to my dance science teacher, she was so amazing, I’ve chosen to trust her, because I have to trust someone), and learned a lot. Have I become a better dancer? I’d like to think so. I’m enjoying most of my classes. And my classmates are mostly excellent people I can learn from and feed off of. But that doesn’t diminish exactly how difficult it is to be the only openly trans person in the program (I’m 90% certain there’s another trans person in a different program at the school, but we haven’t really connected…yet).

 

I went in knowing it would be difficult, but I thought I had prepared myself with this knowledge. The realization that I wasn’t at all prepared was frustrating. I was angry with myself. But the fact is that I don’t think there really is a way to prepare for something like this. When you’re the only one doing a thing, you just have to jump in and hold on for dear life. Some days are easier than others.

 

The flip side of this is that the threat of a formal complaint seems to have been enough to get some of the teachers I struggled with in line. While I criticize myself for my behavior, calling myself an overly sensitive trans person that should get over themself, the fact is that this is a very good thing. The staff are realizing that this isn’t something they cannot be lazy about. And I am learning that I do, in fact, deserve the same respect as my cis peers.

 

I am learning to demand respect, express my needs, and self-advocate. I am also learning who my allies are. And I am learning when to be patient and when not to be, when it’s important to allow someone their own time to take on and consider a concept, and when I can expect someone to make an immediate change. When I graduate, I’m going to be a much better person than I was before, simply through having had to work through these things (of course, it would be better if these things didn’t exist, but I’ll take my silver lining for the moment).

 

And outside of my dance school, I’ve been doing other great things. Which are all going into another post because there are so many thoughts, I can’t confine them here (and because I want to check with necessary people before naming names on the internet and the like). In short, I did something terrifying and asked someone I greatly admired if I could possibly do some choreography with them on a show. The result was some of the most exhausting and positive days of my life. And, after the thing was over, and this person still hadn’t stopped trusting me (the way I was convinced they would), I realized that, mistakes and fuck-ups and exhausted breakdowns and all, I was pretty great. And that I could do things I didn’t know I could.

 

And I also had gone from the outskirts of a queer community that I deeply valued into its center. That’s huge for me. I tend to skate around the edges of my communities without ever fully committing. But I was able to trust these wonderful people enough to venture further in and stay there. So, even while there are days when I don’t even want to set foot into my school, I know that I also have a group of people behind me. People that I can dance with and who can remind me of why I love dance so much in the first place every time I get sucked into the rigidness of an institution that doesn’t quite know what to do with trans students (yet).

 

And I’ve learned that I have value in my own right, not just as a trans dancer, or an activist, but as me. And that’s why I was able to decide that my safe, no-audience blog wasn’t enough and that it was time to spread my thoughts to a greater audience. Eeeek.

 

Original blog context, April 2016

Tl;dr I am not only doing this because there’s loads to talk about, but also because it is part of a process in which I figure out how I want to engage in activism and document my experiences in entering the “professional” dance world.

This was the context in which I originally started blogging. It still holds. 

So I’d like to add a little context to this blog. I’ve already explained why I’m doing this, but that still leaves the question of why now? I’ve been a trans dancer for a long time. I’ve explicitly made transness part of my dancing since I was sixteen. So, what about now makes this the perfect time to start a blog?

Part of the answer is simple – I finally got my shit together to do something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.

When I started at uni, I actively engaged with lgbt+/queer communities. I even was the ace rep for a year. The thing that constantly happened was that queer events were always at the same time as dance class. I always ended up feeling guilty – either for not being as active as I could in my community or for skipping class. This, alongside trying to keep up my studies (and my uni being a complete mess) resulted in the inevitable breakdown.

The year that followed was my study abroad year. I spent time in Boston and France and Finland, meeting new people and learning more about myself and about how activism and community-building worked. Most importantly, I learned that I was young, and really needed to stop expecting myself to have my shit together.

By the time I came back from uni, I knew, quite clearly that I wasn’t returning to my old queer communities. Instead, I dove headfirst into dance. And yes, that included gender neutral, queer, body positive dance. But it also included highly intensive dance situations in which I chose misgendering over not dancing. I never put myself in a position where I had to choose queerness or dance. Or, if I ended up in that position, I chose dance. And, lo and behold, my shaky mental health stabilized. I was no longer putting unnecessary pressure on myself to be queer.

But it also become apparent that, in order to do this, I had to forego my activism. Activism, what it is, and how to go about it, has always been a question for me. Due to social anxiety and a tendency for sensory overload, I don’t feel safe attending any kind of protest or rally. Even community gatherings can be too much for me. Earlier this year, I tried engaging specifically with ace communities and ace activism online and found the social norms there impossible to follow and anxiety inducing.

While taking a break from activist approved social justice activities was a necessity for getting my mental health back on track, I do feel like it is necessary to find ways in which I can make an impact. I do believe that, as a human being witnessing the oppression of other human beings, it is necessary to do something. I am trying to find ways in which I can challenge structural oppression without sacrificing my mental health.

This blog is, in a way, me returning to “activism” after a well-needed break. No, I’m not trying to change the world, and I can’t solve all injustices, as much as I wish I could. But I’d like to try to make an impact through writing about what I know – dance, transness, aroaceness…everything that is me.

There’s also a simpler answer to the why now question.

Because I’m graduating. Back when eighteen year old me was too scared to apply for dance programs and decided that Finnish would be a great thing to study for my undergraduate (to be fair, I wasn’t wrong, Finnish is amazing), I promised myself that the year after my graduation would be dedicated to dance.

My eventual dream is to become a choreographer and that means that I need to start establishing myself as a “professional”. To be honest, “professional” is a very vague term. In general, it means that someone is paid for the work they do. I have been paid for my dancing and choreography before, so therefore, I am already a professional.

Sadly, the structures and hierarchies of dance communities are not so simple. Gaining access to the opportunities I need in order to pursue my career requires networking, it requires diving head first into the Dance World, something I’ve always avoided, in part because of the cissexism, gender essentialism and transphobia that often makes me wonder if dance is ten years behind the rest of the world.

As I apply to a one year dance program at a big name conservatoire as an “out and proud” trans person, I find myself thinking about transness and dance more. I’m learning about myself and this path that I have set myself on. I discover things I want to write about, both positive (the program of the director of this program asking my preferred name at an open day) and discouraging (the feeling that I don’t always belong in my gender neutral dance class because it’s technically for people NOT on the “professional” track).

And I end up thinking a lot about how these intersect. Because, for me, my dancing is inherently linked to my gender. The moments when I feel my transness the most is when I am dancing surrounded by cis people. If I dance while silencing my transness, I am cutting myself off, I am not dancing.

That makes my journey of diving into the dance world a dangerous adventure. This blog is here so I can document it, but also so I can comment on it and to have a platform to discuss my position within both dance and queer communities.

I also have the hope of using this to build community – find other trans dancers (or potential dancers?), build a virtual space in which we are able to discuss the ways the two parts of ourselves interact. To not feel alone. But, I am also aware of my social media I capabilities and, while this would be nice, it is a slightly less realistic goal than my other reasons (but hey, if you’re a trans dancer, come say hi! And if you know a trans dancer, encourage them to come say hi! Because being the only one feels frankly ridiculous and untrue).

 

 

Introduction

This was originally published on the 1st of April, 2016. Not a lot has changed!

 

As a trans and aroace dancer about to take the plunge into the Professional Dance World (whatever that is?), I am scared. Wherever I look – be it in trans, ace, or dance spaces, I never see myself, and, mostly, I see barriers. From the family friend that told me that dance was usually about sex, to the ballet teachers that make of point of having “ladies and men” dance in separate groups, to the baffled look I get when I tell a trans person that I can’t attend an event, I have dance class, to attending a trans open mic night to find every single act helpfully trigger warned “sexual content” (they might have well just marked the entire event that way and I wouldn’t have gone), to the million and one choreographies that explore the theme of (heteronormative) love, I occupy all three spaces imperfectly and thus, occupy a completely new region.

 

It’s really hard to believe there aren’t other trans aroace dancers. I am sure there are. There are definitely trans aroaces (who are quite solidly taking up the challenge of working through the complicated relationship between transness and sexuality), there must be ace dancers and trans dancers, and there must be at least one other person in the world that is all three. But I haven’t found them yet. So, for the moment, I’m not just scared, I’m alone.

 

Blogging on the internet always appears to be a bit like screaming into a void. I’m terrible at social media (I love seeing what other people say, but then I have to say something back? And how does one do that? Sometimes even liking a facebook post freaks me out because it brings attention to me). I’m not going to pretend to be good at this blogging thing or understand how it works, but I do have things to say and it’s well damn time I say it. It doesn’t matter if I’m screaming into a void, what matters is that I’m saying it. And maybe, I’ll be able to get something back out of the void – understanding of how I can tackle the terrifying future ahead of me, that other person Like Me, a new perspective…you know, important things.

 

So just…a new experiment. Because, as of now, the experiences of aroace trans dancers goes unknown and, maybe, in documenting my own experiences, that can bring the invisible space I currently occupy into view.

 

A new blog!

So after some time experimenting on a quiet little tumblr, I've decided that yes, I want to continue to do 
this blogging thing in a way that may appear more professional and legitimate to the world. My dream of 
establishing networks between other trans dancers is slowly moving somewhere and I have gained enough 
confidence in my writing to believe it deserves to be heard.

So, over the next while, I will slowly be transferring bits from the original tumblr (some dating back to a 
year ago!), reflecting on my growth since then and cleaning up the original so that it no longer holds any 
connection to my personal tumblr (which I prefer to keep private for many reasons). I am not sure what I'll 
do with the original thing yet, but this will now be the hub of my thoughts.

And once I'm sure that the messy ties to my personal social media are cleaned away, I might even embark 
on some shameless self-promotion because this is a thing I want to get out to the world...