It’s Raining Inside the Bus

We are commanded to stand. Out of respect, recognition, loyalty, and patriotism. I know the command. I know the pledge. Each line is etched into my grade school memory.

It’s raining inside the bus. I sit at the back in an empty row, holding desperately to my coffee tumbler to keep my fingers warm. Drip. Drip. Drip. One of the few dry areas on my pants, that wasn’t soaked from the walk to the bus stop, is now a matching shade of dark blue. I shrug; sometimes it rains inside the bus.

At the next stop a woman in the row next to me moves into the last dry vacant seat to avoid the splashing water. Drip. Drip. Drip. There is now an empty seat below the drip. New passengers now stand because there are no more desirable seats.

Stand up or lose your job, career, family, friends, community, life.

I peer up from my book as a massive raindrop thuds onto the page and splashes my glasses. The emergency hatch is open. No one seems to know who opened it or why, but we collectively ignore the dripping, move away from it, stare at it, sip our coffee, accept the nuisance. Drip. Drip. Drip. We’re at the last stop before interstate.

I read today that Nike is now sponsoring (exploiting?) Colin Kaepernick. Radical or trendy? Where was this corporate support last year, I wonder.

I put my book away and gently fold my rain-splattered glasses back into their case, zipping my bag, holding it close to my chest to avoid the incoming rain. “Why would anyone open that fucking hatch?” I think to myself.

We’ll stand until our legs give out. We’ll do just about anything to avoid getting a little wet.

I hesitantly stand, tucking my bag and umbrella behind me on the now vacant seat. I look around at my fellow commuters, and then up at the hatch. I reach up and grab the red latch and shift it to the “To Exit” position before I pull sharply down on the surprisingly light emergency hatch. The texture of the hatch reminds me of the square plastic scooters we sat on, and inevitably ran over our fingers with, from elementary school P.E. It never occurred to us to change our grips on the handles to avoid smashing our fingers.

It still doesn’t occur to us to close the damn emergency hatch.

I’m too late. Everyone one the bus who was seated near the hatch is already standing.


K.M. Shultz is a transfabulous activist and future clinical mental health counselor. Currently, he works with college students with disabilities to make campuses more accessible. His true medium is mixed-media art, but he’s starting to dabble in writing.

 

 

 

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“You have to give up your hatred”

“You have to give up your hatred.”

The words exploded into my brain—all those months of meditation practice to try and figure out why I couldn’t directly relate to my patients, followed by the loss of my own denial, the explosion of my life, and the chaos of high-speed medical and social transition as we knew it in the 90’s. Now, here I was, lying in bed, reading a fantasy-fiction novel by (I suspect) another trans woman, where the main character, whose life had been magically transformed by elves, had screamed aloud to her martial-arts mentor, imploring him to tell her why she was unable to progress to the level where she could take on the man who had raped her—and this was his answer: “You have to give up your hatred.”

I screamed in my own anger, frustration, and helplessness; threw the book across the room; and burst into tears. I finally knew the truth. I couldn’t bring myself into the presence of my patients for one simple reason: I hated them.

I hated that I felt destined to serve a human race that I felt no part of. Hated that they didn’t grow up getting bullied every day. Hated that even the meanest among them could feel themselves superior to people like me, deny us housing or employment, assault or seemingly even kill us without any penalty.

Many of us carried a letter-of-passage for the cops from a therapist or some other authority figure, explaining that we wore women’s (or men’s) clothing due to our “mental illness,” not as disguise for illegal activities. We knew full well that the protection of that piece of paper was more due to our confidence in it than any real legal value.

But it was summer, the school where I worked was out of session, and I was lying in bed reading because I was sore from sitting in counseling class all day. Why I thought taking a summer-school class a few weeks after bottom surgery was such a hot idea, I’m not sure, except that years of contact with those “helping professionals” had given me the desire to understand more of the theory behind their actions, along with some thought about possibly changing my career path. . . not to mention gaining some tools to help dismantle the Standards of Care that still held such a grip on our population all those years ago. At any rate, here I was, spending hours in the classroom, sitting on an inflatable rubber donut, listening to the instructors expound on empathy, and totally peeing myself every time I walked into the bathroom down the hall.

See, using the boy’s rooms back in high school was a chancy affair, and I used to get beat up pretty often. Peeing quickly and getting out before getting cornered was the best strategy, so learning to relax those bladder muscles walking in the door was the key. That served well for decades of men’s rooms—but after surgery (and the catheter), it was a bit of a disaster before I figured out what was happening. Of course, I’d been using the ladies’ for years by this time, but, old survival habits—especially the ones we’re no longer conscious of- can persist long after they’re no longer helpful.

Empathy. The instructors held fast to their profession’s accepted definition: to stand in the stream if another’s consciousness as if it were your own, and that this was always for good. I held that this ability—like fire, like any super power—had equal, or even greater, potential to harm than help. Even though the stifling heat of a July afternoon was more conducive to napping than lively discussion—no one had thought about summer school when designing classroom buildings for a college in northern New England—some of the interactions meandered far past the civil discourse of a group of colleagues. After class was over for the day, online discussion could continue far into the night, and since it was a pretty new medium back then, we often got taken by surprise when subtleties were misunderstood. Around midnight one night, when someone made a clueless but still rather innocent comment about the LGBT community I came out to the group rather… er, explosively….

That ended the discussion pretty effectively, we all went to bed, and continued the conversation somewhat differently the next day. That evening, I lay in bed happily with a lurid paperback gleaned from the used racks down at The Toadstool… and… cue scream….

Now there was no escape. I felt like I’d come out to myself a second time, horribly, and I had no idea how to deal with this one. I had an interview with my instructors a few days later, and as I explained it to them, they became more and more horrified.What was I going to do with this? They asked.

I wasn’t sure.

And, you know, I never really did deal with it. It just sort of faded. The course ended; I did well, except that I never gave in to their definition of empathy, and I had some ‘splainin’ to do about using gender-neutral pronouns (zie and hir) in the papers I wrote for them. The school year started again, and I wound up leaving mid-year for a case management position, where I perfected my denim-skirts-and-bulky-sweaters non-profit look. I got to change the gender marker on my driver’s license, which at the time, was reserved for those privileged few who’d had bottom surgery.

Oh, I was out, for sure, but comfortable. I passed, I was even considered pretty for a time (which did lead to a lot of other unexpected learning experiences, I must admit). Things were getting better. There was more awareness, better acceptance. Public forums, panels at the med school, summer camps for trans kids. We saw the average age of transition drop precipitously. The old Harry Benjamin crowd were pushed out and WPATH came in. Families were fighting for their kids’ rights in schools and winning. Insurance. Passports. Better and better and better.

Until yesterday. The ink on Judge K’s lifetime contract is barely dry, and they’re already coming for us. By US, I mean everybody that’s different. Transfolk are just the softest available target (plus, there’s the additional benefit that we can provide some smokescreen for the administration giving Russia a free hand to re-develop their nuclear arsenal, which is what pulling out of the nuclear treaty really means).

And where I am in all of this? I still haven’t given up my hatred. It shows up at the worst times, like when my best friend playfully asks what it was like to have a beard, and I say something vicious. With my patients, the wall is still there, but retirement is looming. Really, if it all blows up, my backup plan would still be to run for the northern border and figure it out after that. There’s plenty of places in the world where even a modest Social Security check would go a long way. Time to go back to carrying my passport, and not just my passport card. For now, I’ll go back to school and finish up my massage therapy certification. I’m planning on specializing in freaks, queers, and weirdos that aren’t comfortable taking their clothes off for mainstream providers. Tired of being judged? Parts don’t match your presentation? Look me up.


HammerWoman. One day long ago, our heroine began her day putting in fence posts, then worked on a motorcycle, fixed the chicken coop, hung up a picture, and finished up a pair of silver earrings. . . and she realized that she had used five different hammers in the course of the day. Stuck for a screen name on a website, she christened herself HammerWoman, and the name has served her well since. 

It’s Been a Rough Week

To all the cisgender gays, lesbians, and bi folks who lobbied for adding sexual orientation to state or workplace non-discrimination policies but didn’t fight for gender identity/expression because you were worried it wouldn’t pass…

To all the cisgender gays, lesbians, and bi folks who lobbied for marriage equality while trans women were being murdered and said you’d come back for us once you got your rights…

I have two things to say to you:

1) We told you this would happen, and

2) Fuck you.


E.L. Axford is an angry, Roller Derby Dyke who would prefer to keep her identity a mystery before her online persona gets her real-world persona into more trouble than she can handle. When she’s not angry (which is rarely) she enjoys drinking loose-leaf tea.

The Lobbyist

“You disgust me.”
His three piece suit was a little too tan,
His paunch just a little too round.
He was a mercenary sociopath,
Paid to stop moms from Plainfield from speaking their truths.

Moms from Plainfield don’t have the budget
To pay sociopaths
To stop paid Expert Witnesses from speaking their lies,
To stop state senators from voting as they have been instructed by the highest
bidder.

“You disgust me.”
And he pointed his polished brown shoes in a practiced stance,
Forty-five degrees from one another,
And his nose into the air
So I could see the hairs of his nostrils,
Demonstrating that the stench of me should be obvious to all.

“You disgust me.”
And all the fear in the pit of my stomach,
All the self-loathing,
Rise as bile and it is all I can do not to collapse right there.

The mercenary sociopath stood on the shoulders of every schoolyard taunter
Who called names that I hadn’t understood, though the tone was clear.
I knew I was belittled, lesser, disgusting to them.
He stood on the shoulders of every boy in high school
Who touched me with eyes,
Smirks,
Hands,
Crotches,
Long before anyone mentioned that “consent” was a thing.
It didn’t used to be a thing.
Not to nice girls half a century ago who would one day
Grow up to be moms from Plainfield.

“You disgust me.”
It wasn’t personal.
He was paid to terrify me,
He was paid to make sure that one more citizen did not speak her mind.
And if the effect could wash over a few people standing beside me,
Then a mom from Cornish
And a retired trucker from Plymouth
Would also be terrified into silence.
If he did his job well, we wouldn’t even be there the next time
With our signs and our truth.

I wasn’t there the next time.
I stayed home, quivering and shaking,
Crumpled on the floor,
Disgusted with myself
And with my tears
And with the fear that I could smell on my own sweat.

And then the fucking rage came
Like Mama Wolf
Like Volcano
Like all the hatred I had tamped down focused into a white-hot broadsword
And the momentum of raising it up in my heart lifted me to my feet
And for damned sure I made phone calls and sent letters
And invited state senators for coffee in Keene, Plymouth, Lebanon.

If I disgust you, then I am going to earn that disgust,
I am going to speak my truth,
And hold my sign,
And protect my family,
And vote. How dare I?

Do my tears disgust you?
Do they look like weakness?
I am not ashamed of them.
I stand with tears like a badge of honor.
I stand with trembling like a badge of honor.
Because I’m standing up,
You son of a bitch.


LFS Alden is co-owner/builder of a straw bale home in the woods and dearly hopes that her children will make it into space. Her concordance of The Hobbit and supporting digital humanities research tools can be found at WordsThatYouWereSaying.blog. She has completed the National Novel Writing Month Challenge three times and fallen short enough times more than that to keep her humble. Her angry transwife Twitter identity is @LionessAnnam.

How to Help Families in Detention (Alt-Title: How to Deal with the Unmitigated Shitstorm at the Border)

Are you feeling angry, lost, frustrated, and/or helpless about the situation at the border? Do you want to support and empower the children who are being unceremoniously locked in cages but feel powerless to do so?

We’re mad as hell. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of suggested actions, (and we’re looking for more, so please drop good ideas in the comments). In the meantime, here are a few ideas about how to help stop this atrocity.

Kindly note: We’ve kept our list on the legal side of the spectrum, but  insurgency is looking increasingly tempting with every passing day.

Report and Share ICE Raids

Find your local hotline for reporting ICE raids. If you are aware of any raids at workplaces, schools, churches, neighborhoods, or on public transit, report it to the hotline immediately.

Sign up for email or text alerts regarding local ICE raids. When you get a notification of a local ICE raid, notify those around you immediately and disseminate the information to your networks.

Know Your Rights (and Help Others Learn Theirs)

If you don’t know immigration rights, learn them. Read this document from Immigrant Defense Project and Center for Constitutional Rights about Defending Against ICE Raids and Community Arrests.

You can also check out these Know Your Rights fliers from Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. They also have safety plans in English, Spanish, and Somali.

Network Up

If you haven’t already, expand your social media networks. Follow all of the local organizations that are working to end detention and to advocate for immigrant rights.

To make sure you see posts on Facebook, click the “following” drop down menu and select “See first” so that important alerts are not lost in the algorithms.

 

[Image description: screenshot of Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network Facebook page. There is a button in the lower lefthand corner of the header image that says “Following.” From this button a drop down menu appears. The option “See first” is highlighted.]

 

You may be surprised by the types of organizations that are doing immigration work. Search not only for immigration networks, but also for other types of organizations with a stake in immigrant rights. In our area, these include: legal advocacy organizations, religious (often Muslim or Sikh) organizations, cultural solidarity networks (often Latinx, Somali, and Syrian), prison/detention abolitionist networks, etc.

Volunteer

Consider volunteering for many of the above types of organizations or networks. If you are multilingual or have a legal background, your services will be particularly useful. If you do not have either, you may be useful in organizing protests or direct actions, filing paperwork or transcribing for a legal advocacy org, performing intakes, creating care packages, leafleting, gathering signatures for petitions, holding or organizing a fundraiser, etc. Call or email your local organizations, tell them about your skillset, and ask if they have a volunteer position for you. Be realistic about whether you can accept on ongoing position or can only volunteer for a weekend. (It takes a lot of time and energy for orgs to train you, so don’t take an ongoing position if you can’t meaningfully commit the time.)

Register to Vote, If You’re Able

Are you registered to vote? Find out here. If you are legally able to vote, get registered. Get your documents together so that you can register, and come November vote in all local, state, and federal elections. Already registered? Talk to friends and family to make sure they are registered.

 

Call Your Reps

Call your local representatives. Here’s how to find them.

If your local reps are already supportive of detention abolition, call the DOJ hotline. Feel free to use this script or come up with your own.

[Image description: Screenshot reading Call the DOJ main comment line: 202-353-1555 Here is a sample script to help you make your call: My name is [NAME] and I live in [CITY/STATE]. I am calling to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions that I do not support his decision in the Matter of A-B. With this order, the Trump administration has turned its back on some of the most vulnerable people in the world. I demand the attorney general stop his anti-immigrant agenda. I, and many other citizens, stand against hate and xenophobia — and demand that the Department of Justice do the same. ]

Credit to: Southern Poverty Law Center

Dispel the Myths

Are your friends and families and casual acquaintances and coworkers aware of what is happening? Are they sharing fake news? Do they know how to help? Share this list with them. Share real news with them. Engage in conversations so that you can dispel falsehoods, stay up to date on correct information, learn about local actions, and share tips about how to help.

Follow reliable news sources so that you are up to date on the latest accurate information about immigration detention. And learn how to spot fake news.

[Image description: How to spot fake news. Consider the source: Click away from the story to investigate the site, its mission and it’s contact info. Read beyond: Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks. What’s the whole story? Check the author. Do a quick search on the author. Are they credible? Are they real? Supporting sources. Click on those links. Determine if the info given actually supports the story. Check the date. Reposting old news stories doesn’t mean they’re relevant to current events. Is it a joke? If it is too outlandish, it might be satire. Research the site and author to be sure. Check your biases. Consider if your own beliefs could affect your judgment. Ask the experts. Ask a librarian, or consult a fact-checking site. From: International federation of library associations and institutions.]
Attribution: By IFLA (http://www.ifla.org/publications/node/11174) [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Donate, If You’re Able

We know that many in our communities are barely scraping by and don’t have extra economic capital to donate. But if you can, please do.

There are so many worthy places to donate.

Sometimes, though, when organizations get an unexpected windfall, they aren’t skilled at managing that great amount of money. (We’re thinking about some of the issues with ALS orgs a few years back.) Feel free to donate to these orgs, but consider donating to local advocacy groups as well, who may not be getting the same windfalls. Consider donating sustainably, and in an ongoing manner, if you are able.

Protest

If you’re near DC, there will be a June 30th protest at Lafeyette Square.

If you are anywhere else, use this map to find a protest near you.

Whatever You Do

Stay ready. Stay hydrated. Stay woke.

Love you, fam.

-Editors


Want to join our volunteer team? Send us an email explaining your qualifications. Resume or writing samples appreciated, but not required. We’re looking for editors, writers who would like to regularly submit, and social media gurus. We do not currently have any paid positions and consist solely of volunteer staffers. In your email, please include creative suggestions on how you’d like to be compensated for your time. ​

 

Gendertrash Update

We’ve been terrible at posting. Horrendous really. On a scale from how frequently an asteroid collides with the earth to create the moon to how often the alt-right (Can we call them Nazis now? Yes? Great.) does something racist as f*ck, we’re posting at about the frequency of a total solar eclipse. We’re sorry about this, but we can’t make any promises that we’re going to get better. That said, dear reader, we owe you an explanation.

Self-Care, Y’all

We’re here for the resistance. And as seasoned activists, we know that this is a marathon, not a sprint. As gendertrash, we’ve always been in it for the long haul. We watched middle-class lesbians and gays do their sprint for marriage equality, we remembered them saying they’d work for trans rights after they won marriage, and we’ve listened to the crickets as trans rights have been repealed over and over and over. To be honest, we’re not the least bit surprised. Don’t get us wrong: we think marriage equality activists meant it when they said they’d come back to help. We just think that they burned out from the intensive physical and psychological decathlon that is activism.

Particularly when that activism centers around your own identity.

Particularly when the conversation of the oppositions centers around your right to basic human dignity, or even your right to live.

Particularly when you don’t have any choice in whether or not you become an activist because your very existence is politicized as an act of resistance.

We think marriage equality activists sincerely planned on coming back to help; we also think the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Our Own Merry Road to Hell

That brings us back to Gendertrash Café, dear reader. Here at the Café, we’re currently traipsing down the yellow brick road to hell, ‘cause we had the very best intentions when we started this blog. Luckily, it’s a pretty road and we’re all friends of Dorothy here.

Our editors have been engaging in very interpersonal and sometimes micro-level activism and self-care. Housing insecurity, job changes, and chronic illness to name a few circumstances of many have caused us to shift foci and priorities to personal safety and localized activism. We know you know these struggles, friends, so we ask for your love and support as we continue to engage and post at a slower rate than originally intended.

We would also be remiss if we didn’t point out that the current political climate is less than reinvigorating. There. Are. So. Many. F*cked. Up. Things. Happening. Every. Damn. Day. that it’s difficult to keep track of everything, let alone respond to all of it.

But that’s the design, ladies & gents & non-binary sibs. They want us to get distracted by the chaos. The tactic of the oppressor is to keep us in a constant state of confusion, anger, fear, and hopelessness. If we’re being hit from so many angles, and if the barrage is constant, we don’t know where and how to focus our energies. We start feeling as though we are powerless to incite change. Eventually, we give up. The chaos becomes normalized, the messages become internalized, and one day you wake up to find that we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

“The tactic of the oppressor is to keep us in a constant state of confusion, anger, fear, and hopelessness. If we’re being hit from so many angles, and if the barrage is constant, we don’t know where and how to focus our energies. We start feeling as though we are powerless to incite change. Eventually, we give up. The chaos becomes normalized, the messages become internalized, and one day you wake up to find that we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.”

We must not let that happen. We must take care of ourselves so that we can continue to resist. This is an ultramarathon, so we cannot treat it like a 100 meter. Not a fan of sports analogies? The next few years will be the gastronomical equivalent of eating a 26-lbs turkey by yourself in one sitting. We suggest stretch pants.

809728

What we really want to say is this: take care of yourselves, hold space for others around you to commit to self-care, and take care of each other. We’re still planning to be here in 2021, albeit with new battle scars. But the only way any of us will make it to that point is to stay focused; to channel our anger into productive activism as much as it is healthy and possible; and to commit to the long, hard road ahead.

With love and solidarity,
-Gendertrash Café Editors

Want to join our volunteer team? Send us an email explaining your qualifications. Resume or writing samples appreciated, but not required. We’re looking for editors, writers who would like to regularly submit, and social media gurus. We do not currently have any paid positions and consist solely of volunteer staffers. In your email, please include creative suggestions on how you’d like to be compensated for your time. ​

On Politics – Poems by Sergio Ortiz

Where will the children play
Their names, carved in the keel
of the vessel in which they traveled.

Their margins, our boundaries pushed
to the side in view of what really matters

in our fallible, sensitive lives, seek
a response from the unknown.

Position yourselves next to the mystery
of their music. Is child play the glimmer

that does not bond to anything,
a mirror of water: the closed curtain

in the school of human affections?
Gunshot signals the rescue,

yet you deny them entry.
A growing weakness reminds me

that there is no beginning or end in the life
of your phosphoric limbo, Mr. President.

Nobility of Blood
Dear Lord, this congressional recess
the President’s cabinet promises
to thank you for AIDS, though
it has not made them transcend
into the 21st century. They are
still caught up in superficial things
like fake news, taxes, bans, the wall.

We thank you for these tent evangelists,
brothers and sisters alike,
breeders of hate crimes,
that reject the perfect beauty
of homemade remedies
and blood transfusions.

Lord, forgive their arrogance
toward the medical community
and appoint faith healers
to Obama Care, or whatever the hell
Mr. Trump decides to call it.

Thank you for allowing me to live
on the periphery of society,
where nobody asks yet everybody
tells. Thank you for the innocent
illusion of my open exhibitions
of affection toward Omar. Thank you

for not letting in immigrants
from Muslim Africa, where water, food,
and medical supplies have always
been scarce and costly, where rape
and violence towards women
is beyond control, where children
have no choice but to fight
for brutal warlords, where life
and death no longer belongs to You.

Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Libya, Sudan,
have you learned to die?


Sergio A. Ortiz is a queer Puerto Rican poet and the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have been published in hundreds of journals and anthologies. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.