It’s Trans Awareness Week, the week leading up to Trans Day of Remembrance on November 20th. When we say that Autostraddle is website primarily for queer women, we want to be 100% clear that that includes queer trans women and that it’s important to honor trans women year-round, not just in obituaries. So all week long we’re going to be spotlighting articles by and about trans women, with a special focus on trans women of color. We hope you’ll love reading everything as much as we’ve loved writing and editing it.
From 2009 through 2011, Autostraddle’s coverage of trans issues could best be characterized as a series of blunders, failures and missteps. Raised on movies like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and coming into our lesbian identities in bars and at queer parties occupied by queer cis women and trans men, Laneia and I never decided to intentionally exclude trans women from Autostraddle… we’d just not thought about trans women at all, not even for one second. When we published our first essay by a new trans male writer and readers asked where the trans women were at, I remember thinking “but trans women don’t date women, they date men, right?” Um, wrong! (In fact, the best numbers we have on the topic indicate that two-thirds of trans women identify as lesbian, bisexual, or queer.) Oh my friends, that was just the tip of the “shit I was wrong about” and “things I am so sorry about” iceberg.
So we set out to educate ourselves and be better. If someone in a leadership position like mine could be that ignorant, who knows how little everybody else knew. I read a lot of books and spent a lot of time on Tumblr, which is where I found Annika Penelope, our first trans woman staff writer.
When Annika decided to take a break from the internet, we used money from our 2012 fundraising campaign to publish a series of essays by trans women called Trans*scribe. We hoped at the very least we’d publish a bunch of interesting work and at the very most, add a bunch of new trans writers to our rolodex for future contributions. Around that time I read a really interesting post at The Lingerie Addict by the incredible Cora Harrington, who was being attacked online with transphobic slurs although she was not, in fact, transgender. I thought it’d be cool to re-publish her piece with a response from an actual trans woman of color, and asked Mey Rude, whose Tumblr I’d been lurking on for a few weeks, if she’d like to do it. At this point I didn’t make the connection that Mey was also the author of a Trans*scribe essay we were planning to publish, but when I did, it all came together. (The Call/Response piece with Cora and Mey turned out SO GOOD.)
At this point I cannot even imagine an Autostraddle without Mey in it. She’s become a dear friend and an incredible Autostraddle Team Member. In addition to writing about comics, witchery, television, cold-weather fashion and dinosaur facts, she’s taken on the role of Trans Editor and solicited work from so many of the best transgender writers working today, with a particular emphasis on trans women of color.
She’s told ghost stories with Janet Mock, interviewed Laverne Cox (twice!), consulted with the authors of Lumberjanes and Bitch Planet, interviewed Miss Major, schooled the world on how not to interview trans women, appeared on HLN, had her article mentioned by name on The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and been featured on Facebook Stories — and brought authors like Gabrielle Bellot, Raquel Willis and Drew Harris to Autostraddle.
I shelved the original piece I’d written for this week because Mey has curated such an exceptional series of articles and essays centering trans women’s voices that the last thing I wanted to do was re-center a cis voice. I JUST WANT TO TALK ABOUT MEY, YOU GUYS! But I’d also like to highlight some of the best stuff that’s been published by trans women over the years. Since 2012, we’ve published writing by 48 different trans women writers. Autostraddle is committed to trans inclusion, to elevating trans voices, and to setting a new standard for queer women’s communities to be explicitly inclusive of trans women, no matter how many TERFs harass us on Twitter. We know that we mess up sometimes, and that not everybody in the trans community is a fan of everything we do, and that we’re not perfect allies by any means. (Nor does anybody need or want a cookie.) But this we believe: trans women are women, black trans lives matter, trans women of color need our support, and that queer communities who don’t include trans women are doing it wrong.
This year has been full of many steps forward and many steps back for the trans community at large, but I do think Mey has had a hand in a lot of the steps forward that have happened. I’m proud to have her in our family, and grateful for every trans woman who’s published with Autostraddle.
Here’s what’s gone up for Trans Awareness Week so far:
- 15 Best Trans Woman Movies According to Trans Women, by Mey Rude, constructed with input from amazing humans including Jen Richards, Annie Mok, Zackary Drucker, Princess Harmony Rodriguez and Trace Lysette.
- True Life: I’m Genderqueer and I Watched MTV’s “True Life: I’m Genderqueer”, by Anna Bongiovanni
- The Complete History of Transgender Characters in American Comic Books, by Mey Rude
- Making the Dive and Loving Myself Dangerously, by Gabrielle Bellot
- 10 Trans Women Pioneers They Definitely Didn’t Tell You About In History Class, by Mey Rude
- Kicking Off Trans Awareness Week, the Trans Stories of the Past Year, Recapped, by Mey Rude
1. I’m Just Your Typical Urban Hipster Femme Twentysomething Trans Lesbian, by Annika Penelope
The post that started it all!
I doubled down on my efforts in college. I made a vow to try to become the man that everyone expected me to be. It certainly seemed easier than the alternatives. I joined a frat and started lifting weights. But the more I butched up, the more miserable I felt inside. I was never comfortable in social situations. I couldn’t fully relax around others for fear of letting the girl below the façade show through.
2. A Muslim RuPaul At the Dawn Of Islam, by Maryam
It’s really hard to describe Tuwais without getting a little wide eyed. He comes off as a mixture of David Bowie and RuPaul.** He was a freed slave of Arwa, mother of Uthman, the Third Caliph. (It’s said he was born the day the Prophet (P) upon him died. Which was the origin of the phrase “unluckier than Tuwais.” Legends.) Sometime in his career, he took a nickname, something only female singers did, changing his name to Tuwais, or ‘little peacock.’
3. How to Write About Trans Women, by Gabrielle Bellot
After we all read Gabrielle’s essay on Guernica, Mey reached out to see if she’d write for us. When she said yes we all died because she is so good and we were so excited.
The photo on your cover or hanging above your article comes next. Go for broke here. Images of hairy legs in high heels or emerging from tutus are classics you can’t go wrong with, like Strauss’ Blue Danube waltz or light summery pastas with basil and garlic. The goal is to suggest that trans women must look like comical parodies of womanhood, like clueless men.
4. If Joan Of Arc Can Do It, Why Can’t I?, by Mey Rude
One of the first times Mey’s whole heart was just right there on the screen. Also I love Joan of Arc and I love Mey.
Ever since I went to a Halloween party at my friend’s church youth group in 6th grade, I’ve been almost inseparable from my Christian identity. But on November 4th, 2012, my heart was all the way down in my toes as I got ready to go to church for the first time as a transgender lesbian.
5. I Said Yes To The (Gay Wedding) Dress, by Mari Brighe
Despite all the planning, and all the talking, and all the money we had spent, it was THAT moment that suddenly made the wedding feel very real. This was the dress I was going to get married in, that I would be wearing when I affirmed my desire to spend the rest of my life with my amazing partner. But, it also touched something deeper, more complex, more fundamental to my transition and my womanhood.
6. Graduation to Womanhood, by Raquel Willis
Some people come out of the experience with a degree, others with incredible stories, and others simply with a better understanding of their body’s tolerance for alcohol. But some, like me, left with a newfound understanding and sense of purpose; I matriculated as a timid, confused boy and departed as a woman standing in her truth.
7. Do Not Consume Psilocybin Mushrooms While Trans, by Meredith
Meredith’s cis wife, Genevra, has also written some really amazing stuff for Autostraddle.
It feels real when I wake up, but I still have a male body. It must be another dream. I shakily walk over to a bookshelf and pick a book at random — Orlando, funnily enough. The pages remain the same no matter how many times I look away and back again, almost like I’m awake. I must be dreaming though, if only because it would be too unfair for this to be my real body again.
8. “And I Do Mean All My Life”: A Trans Coming Out Letter, by Sarah Szabo
Over the last four years, my incredible parents have basically done the equivalent of bringing me the moon and stars down from the sky, through all the things they’ve done for me. They are amazing people, and I know I’m fortunate, but even they had troubles grasping what it truly meant for them and me, the first time I told them, “I’m a girl.” I knew they probably would. Also, I knew I’d have trouble saying the words.
Here’s the thing: People fucking despise trans women. Often the nicest thing they can thing of to say to trans woman is “gosh, you are so little like a trans woman!” Being trans is something to avoid, to exclude, to escape, at worst to nobly bare up under. But I’m done with it.
10. I Knew I Was A Girl at 8: Transitioning and Teenage Activism, by Eli Erlick
I remember explaining to Harmony, my best friend in third grade, that I was a girl:
“Harmony! We can have sleepovers now!”
“But you’re a boy!” she immediately retorted.
“Well, I’m a girl now.”
Harmony rolled her eyes and walked away, confused.
11. Imagining a Better World For Trans Women Survivors of Domestic Violence, by Morgan Collado
The reach of intimate partner violence in my life still amazes me. Emotional violence in relationships leaves scars that are deep and knotted. It has taken years and lots of love, both self-love and love from others, in order to ease out the tension that ties up my body. But being a survivor has shown me how resilient I can be because I am still alive. I can take the shit that the world has thrown at me and turn it into a garden.
12. I’m Both an L and a T and I Don’t Want to Choose a Side, by Mey Rude
As a trans woman, I’m much more afraid of, and much more angry at, about a dozen demographics before cis lesbians, and as a lesbian I’m much more afraid of, and much more angry at, another dozen demographics before trans women. Actually, I’m pretty over this pitting women against women thing, especially when we have so much in common. I feel much more kinship with cis lesbians than I do with gay men or most trans men, or to be honest, with many white trans women. Oftentimes I feel a bigger divide between white trans women and trans women of color than I do between trans women and cis lesbians.
13. This Is Because I’m a Woman, by Morgan McCormick
It didn’t take long before I wasn’t leaving my home much anymore. Friends I’d opened up to about it often just say, “Welcome to womanhood” or sometimes, “Wow, really? I wish guys would pay that much attention to me.” I can see what they’re saying, because some guys are just trying to tell me I look nice and they’re not going to follow me home or hurt me. (One just bicycled around me a couple times and said, “Little girl, you are the most beautiful,” and pedaled away.)
14. Rebel Yell: This Voice Isn’t Gendered, It’s Punk, by Audrey Zee
Instability is a funny thing, being queer and trans: it can be a space of possibility, of new starts, and making norms look as dumb as they are in comparison. And good punk is nothing but instability, everything just about to fall apart. Instability is scary, though, when it’s my own gender identity being broken down, live, in front of other people.
15. Badass Blacksmiths: Women’s Work and Transgender Identity, by Willow Zietman
My passion for the craft became less of a blessing when I came out as transgender. People would look surprised and say, “But…you can’t be a girl. You’re a blacksmith!” My adherence to my passion as a gendered activity ended up negating the reality of my inner feelings. I may be trans, but people didn’t believe me because of my craft.
16. On The Silencing of Trans Women of Color: A Response to Trans Glamour vs. Trans Activism, by L’lerrét Jazelle Ailith
As a white woman, you may not understand this, but the simple act of getting up and being in the public eye and proclaiming your transness unapologetically is an act of revolution for every trans person of color, and in that right, they are doing the work.
17. Click on a Keyboard: Dungeons, Dragons, and Trans-Feminism, by Katherine Cross
Single player games provided me with visions of female power. Women with swords, spells, lightsabers, martial skills, elegance, high education, class, guts, skill, and who – above all – showed no shame in who they were. If these fictional characters could do it, so could I. But since I was still being forced to live as a boy, where could I possibly begin?