I am excited to be presenting at the 2013 Creating Change Conference in Atlanta January 23-27. I will be presenting in two sessions at the conference:
Intersex: An Introductory Workshop
Friday, January 25, 2013 from 3:00-4:30pm
An estimated 1 in 2,000 children are born with genitals, chromosomes and/or reproductive organs that obviously fall outside of the (narrow) medical definition of male or female. Unfortunately children born with intersex conditions are often surgically mutilated at birth. Even when children are able to escape surgery, it is difficult to escape the stigma, shame and secrecy that come along with a body that doctors and society tell you is “different.” This workshop will include a basic introduction to intersex issues and activism, including Caitlin’s personal story and a screening of a short documentary on the topic.
Exploring Disability’s Intersectional Space in LGBTI Rights
Saturday, January 26, 2013 from 9:00-10:30am
Outreach, organizing, and advocacy efforts to secure rights for LGBTI people are often made at the expense of people with disabilities, either by ignoring them or perpetuating ableism. Not only does this impact the struggle of the disability-rights movement, but also obscures ripe possibilities for intersectional and collaborative efforts. This session seeks to deconstruct ableism in the LGBTI-rights movement and explore the commonalities between the two movements in hopes of starting a cross-movement dialogue.
For more information, registration and the complete schedule, please visit http://www.creatingchange.org/
Atlanta Pride had humble beginnings in 1971 as a protest march organized by the Atlanta Gay Liberation Front to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, and has since grown to be one of the largest Gay Pride festivals in the U.S. and definitely the largest in the South. Unfortunately, it has lost much of it’s radical queer roots in the process and has become more of a large party with tons of corporate sponsors and assimilationist politics (but that is another blog post.) Because of a number of issues Atlanta Pride has been moved to Halloween weekend this year, instead of the usual Stonewall anniversary weekend. This has left a great opportunity for local organizers to plan events that are political, community based, and that remind us of the reason we celebrate the last weekend in June.
I want to highlight a reading I am involved in that will take place Stonewall weekend for the fabulous two-volume anthology I have a piece in called ‘Visible: A Femmethology’. I am especially excited to commemorate Stonewall weekend with a reading from this book, as I think the fact that it challenges the queer community on assumptions and ideas around femininity and femme identity is especially appropriate. The event is free and open to the public. Hope to see you there!
Stonewall Anniversary Weekend Femmethology Reading
Saturday June 27th, 2009 8:30pm @ Aphrodite’s Toy Box (3040 N. Decatur Rd. Scottdale, GA 30079)
‘Visible: A Femmethology‘, the only two-volume anthology devoted to femme identity, calls the LGBTQI community on its prejudices and celebrates the diversity of individual femmes. Award-winning authors, spoken-word artists, and new voices come together to challenge conventional ideas of how disability, class, nationality, race, aesthetics, sexual orientation, gender identity and body type intersect with each contributor’s concrete notion of femmedom. Join us as we celebrate the release of this anthology, with readings by 5 local contributors: Brook Bolen, Caitlin Childs, JD Dykes, Asha Leong, and Margaret Price.
You can view the Facebook invitation here, read about the book on the Femmethology website here, read about the fabulous publisher here, and get info on the venue hosting the reading, Aphrodite’s Toy Box here.
This certainly is a blast from the past! I found this list online today when I was searching around for intersex websites. I periodically do this since new sites pop up all the time and I like to keep track of what is happening in the online intersex world.
I helped write this list, along with some trans community members, back in 2004. I was part of a group of young, white, anti-authoritarian, community organizers in Atlanta who decided that rather than continue to organize in ways that were potentially problematic, we should take the time to caucus around race, look back critically on past organizing, and think about ways that white organizers can work with communities of color in ways that are actually useful to communities of color. We eventually did some interesting community organizing projects that were very intentional in regards to building relationships, taking leadership from communities of color, and sustainability. These caucuses were far from problem free and eventually did dissolve. However, I learned a lot from my involvement and that work has definitely informed my activism since.
This list of demands came out of some of that work. It was initially written just for the folks involved in the caucusing. Most of us involved in the caucusing decided to attend the SEANET (South East Anarchist Network) Conference in the Spring of 2004. Upon finding out that the conference organizers had decided to use a gender caucus format for the bulk of the conference, we sent this list to the organizers and to be distributed at the conference. Apparently it made it’s way around the internet world. I think it is a useful starting point. There are probably things I would change and add to it now, but I think it is definitely worth sharing. Let me know your thoughts too!
Also, I am working on a blog on the differences and commonalities between intersex and transgender. I think that intersex and trans folks are natural allies in many ways and I have some thoughts on the ways we can work together and support each other’s activism and struggles. We intentionally separated out the trans and intersex demands on this list, even if some do overlap, because we acknowledge big differences do exist and think it takes away from both trans and intersex folks’ unique experiences to lump everything together.
Here are two separate lists that a few of us developed in Atlanta. We initially wrote the list because we had found other lists in regards to sexism to be good, but incomplete and lacking in our own experiences.
The trans demands are lacking in MtF voices. This list comes out of our community. The list is far from complete, but is good to start discussions around these issues. We wanted to make sure we sent them out before the SEAnet (South Eastern Anarchist network) Gathering in April . We encourage everyone (particularly SEAnet organizers) to take the time to read them.
INTERSEX LIST OF DEMANDS
- Don’t assume you know someone’s sex based on how you perceive them or their gender.
- Don’t assume all women have a vagina, uterus, etc.
- Don’t assume all men have a penis, testes, etc.
- Don’t fetishize our bodies.
- Don’t use the word hermaphrodite to describe us unless we identify that way and give permission.
- Don’t feel sorry for us.
- Respect our sex identification.
- Don’t exploit our existence to discredit biological determinism or other academic ideologies.
- Know the difference between sex and gender.
- Know the difference between intersexed and transgendered.
- Don’t ask us or try to picture what our genitals look like.
- Don’t ask us if we have sexual sensations.
- Don’t assume you have the right to know intimate details of our bodies. We have the right to privacy and safety like all other people.
- Realize we have historically been mutilated, fetishized, and made into freak shows. Understand how this affects us and our safety.
- Don’t say “cool” or “weird” or treat us differently when we tell you we are intersexed.
- Educate yourself!!! Read books on intersex.
- Girl, woman, female; boy, man, male are not always interchangeable.
- Don’t assume all intersex people are queer.
- Realize that not all people with intersex condition are out.
- Realize that not all people with intersex conditions even know that they are intersexed.
- Remember that we are 1 in 100, and that is not rare at all!!!
- Don’t call our conditions “disorders,” “retardations,” “abnormalities,” etc.
- Realize that bodies come in all different shapes, sizes and with different parts.
- Realize how fucking strong we are to speak up about the medical abuse and victimization we have been through and that we deserve mad props.
- Don’t write us off as rare and unimportant. Don’t put off educating yourself for other “more important” issues.
- In situations such as gender caucuses, keep in mind that not all the people who identify as women have similar genitalia, etc. Understand that we have been taught that our bodies are “wrong” and “ugly” and that it reinforces this when people say they love being women because of their vagina, uterus, etc., this reinforces those feelings. Woman does not necessarily = female. Man does not necessarily = male.
TRANS/GENDER LIST OF DEMANDS
- Don’t assume someone’s gender identity.
- Don’t constantly reference someone’s gender identity in an attempt to seem OK with it. Likewise, don’t think we care if you’re OK with us or not. No one asked for your approval.
- Don’t trip up on pronouns- if you fuck up, simply correct yourself and go on.
- Don’t glamorize someone’s gender identity or think it’s “cool” or say that you’re “into it.”
- Read trans/gender theory. Know the difference between: transgender, transsexual, gender fucking, gender blending/bending, gender vs. sex, binary gender, passing, transitioning, binding, tucking, packing/stuffing, third genders, drag queens/kings, androgyny, butch, femme, crossdressing, boi, MtF, FtM, tranny boys, tranny dykes, boydykes, transfags, etc., etc., etc.!!!
- Know the difference between intersex and transgender.
- Think about how you would really feel if someone you loved transitioned. Think about your fears and why you have them.
- Recognize your own transphobia.
- Know about transitioning and surgery and hormones.
- Don’t just name yourself a “trans ally” one day.
- Realize that some of us have struggled with our gender identity for a long time. Don’t think that we just woke up one day and decided that we would identify as transgendered. So when we finally find a space that we’re comfortable in (even if temporarily), don’t co-opt that space or try to make it yours too.
- Even if you think fucking with gender is hot, don’t talk about it in an objectifying way.
- Realize that it can be hard existing in in-between spaces and really know that trans oppression and transphobia exist. Know the fear of not being able to determine when you pass, the fear of being arrested/strip searched/thrown in the wrong holding cell, the threat of violence, the annoyance of having to “come out” about your gender identity constantly, etc.
- Understand the privilege of feeling at home in your body, using a public bathroom, knowing which M/F box to check, having people assume your gender identity and them being right, etc.
- Realize that there is a gender community and that the validation we receive from that community can be incomparable to what you could ever offer us and let us seek refuge there.
- Recognize how class and race fit into these equations.
- Recognize and respect someone’s gender identity regardless of whether or not they choose to have surgery or take hormones. Similarly, don’t judge someone for transitioning or not wanting to identify as “transgendered.”
- Don’t think of a transgender identity as “political.”
- Don’t partner with us out of some weird transitioning or coming out process for you. Don’t ask us how we fuck.
- Question your own gender! (But don’t then tell me, “You know, I’ve never felt like a ‘real man’/’real woman’ either.” -What this means is don’t assume our experiences are the same.
- Don’t ask questions about someone trying to determine their “real gender.”
- Don’t think that FtM are dealing with some kind of internalized sexism.
- Don’t assume our gender identity, render it invisible, or think it doesn’t matter because of who we choose to partner with.
- Don’t label our gender or sexual identity for us. Recognize the difference between the two!
- Don’t think of our experiences and identities as monolithic.
- Don’t think we are a “recent emergence” that somehow came out of gender/queer theory and academia.
- Realize that there are a variety of trans/gender expressions. Don’t assume that people should express their gender similarly just because they both identify as transgendered. Likewise, don’t judge someone because you think that their trans identity and gender expression conflict.
- Think about the language you use to differentiate between trans and non-trans people and if it’s even necessary to differentiate.
- Don’t assume trans people have a “shared experience” with people assigned the same gender.
- Don’t assume FtMs are “better” than other men, or MtFs are not “as good” as other women (especially in terms of sexism).
- When doing introductions at a meeting, say the pronoun you prefer for that space along with your name, etc. (Facilitators should make sure this is done.)
- Be sensitive to pronouns you use for someone when dealing with authority, police. Keep in mind that people’s pronouns/gender identity may not always match up with their I.D.
- Don’t include us in your process of learning about intersex or trans issues unless we ask you about it.
My butch dearest and I just returned from a relaxing (and much needed) weekend away in the North Georgia Mountains. Upon checking my email, I was bombarded with multiple messages about Amazon.com removing LGBT books from being ranked on their website.
Now, I get the general reasons people are upset: labeling anything with queer content as “adult” while letting hetero books that clearly contain “adult” content stay is not cute. I was lucky to come from a book worshiping home where I was allowed to read anything and everything I could get my hands on. As a high school drop out with little formal education, I credit this access to books and information with giving me a great, although non-traditional, education. Queer folks (especially youth) need these books – a way to figure out the answers to the questions we sometimes can’t say out loud. To find out what the options are. To know we aren’t alone. Many isolated folks are not aware of alternative sources for books and information and Amazon.com is a likely a place someone struggling with or figuring out their queerness would go.
I also understand that it conjures up all kinds of images of crazed PTAs storming the school library and confiscating copies of Judy Blume books.
All that said, I’m still a little baffled by all the hoopla.
I am fortunate to live in one of the cities that is home to an independent, queer owned and run, feminist bookstore, Charis Books and More.
Charis opened in 1974 and has managed to survive in spite of Borders and Barnes Noble/Amazon.com. As of today there are only 10 feminist bookstores in the U.S. and Canada (compared to 120 in 1994.) I first found Charis as a kid when my mom would take me to its original storefront location on Moreland Ave. in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta. When I was 15, a hot angsty mess, and starting to figure out my queer identity, I rediscovered Charis, on my own this time. They had moved to a house caddy-corner to their original location. Inside I found hundreds of books to help me sort my shit out, as well as a community. I began volunteering at the bookstore and continued to do so off and on. I learned about Charis Circle, the non profit sister organization to the bookstore which puts on free author readings, books groups, writing groups, and social justice programming in the store. When I was 20 I volunteered as a mentor in the fabulous but now defunct ‘Sistergirls’ program and a year or so later joined the board of directors and served for 2 years. I also completed a 7 month fellowship with the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities by spending 20 hours a week as part of the Charis Circle staff organizing disability specific programming and outreach via Charis Circle. This fellowship allowed me to create an ongoing disability series at Charis, which continues today, more than a year after my fellowship came to an end.
Charis (both the Circle and Store) have changed my life multiple times in the 10 years I’ve been going sans mom. They have offered me a never ending world of books, the opportunity to meet my favorite authors and even share a meal with one of them (Michelle Tea!!), a space to further my social justice and community organizing work, and above all else, a community. I’ve grown up at Charis. Gone from an awkward and angry punk rock baby dyke to a confident (and still angry) femme 20-something.
My question to folks outraged by Amazon’s shennanigans: Why aren’t we buying our books from the Charis or any of the feminist bookstores or LGBT bookstores (do a google search if you want to see if there is one in your area) or even your local indie bookstore which you can find listed here? Why is anyone surprised that a mega corporation, who is currently controlling the books that most people in the U.S. buy and have access to, is censoring queer, feminist and sex positive voices? Why are we allowing Amazon.com to be our source for progressive and radical information in the first place?
Bookstores like Charis exist to support OUR voices, to fight damage done to our communities by corporations like Amazon.com and Co. Even if you are somewhere with no indie bookstore, you can order online from most indies these days and most are more than happy to special order any book your heart can dream of (or recommend a damn good one if you don’t know what you’re looking for.)
Charis offers 10% off all online orders, so what are you waiting for? Click here and start shopping today! Let’s stop trying to force corporations to accommodate our community’s needs or think that buying corporate support will liberate us. Let’s instead support those who truly support us, in part because they are part of our community. Borders and Barnes and Noble/Amazon.com may be on every corner and always offer free shipping, but they can’t come remotely close to provide the never ending list of things a good independent bookstore does. If these aren’t enough reasons to shop independent, here are some more from the Indie Bound website:
Why shop Indie?
When you shop at an independently owned business, your entire community benefits:
- Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
- Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
- More of your taxes are reinvested in your community–where they belong.
- Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
- Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money to beautify your community.
- Local retailers are your friends and neighbors—support them and they’ll support you.
- Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
- More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.
I know I haven’t posted anything in a while. My life has been extra special chaotic and writing has gotten temporarily moved to the back burner.
I do have a couple of upcoming events that I wanted to share with folks:
Tuesday April 7th 7:00pm I will be doing a Intersex 101 at Agnes Scott College in the Teasley Auditorium which is located in the Science Building off of W. Dougherty St. This presentation will include basic intersex definitions, some or all of the film ‘One in 2000’ by Ajae Clearway, my personal story, plus time for q&a and discussion. This is a really good way to get the basics of what intersex is, learn about intersex activism, and how you can be an ally.
Thursday May 14th from 7:30-9:00pm I will be taking part in the official Atlanta Visible: A Femmethology launch party at Charis Books and More. This event is presented by Charis Circle and sponsored by the Atlanta Femme Mafia. It will feature readings from the Atlanta contributors featured in the two books including myself, Brook Bolen, Asha Leong, Margaret Price, and JD Dykes. It will be an evening full of fabulous writing on femme identity, thought provoking conversation, snacks, and fabulous fashion (I know I have been picking my outfit out in my head for months.)
There will also be another reading at Aphrodite’s Toybox sometime in the near future. Details TBA.
Please feel free to spread the word about these events and bring your friends, family, co-workers, next door neighbor, etc!