An open letter to be printed and mailed on Monday.
To the lady who owns “Our Children Our Earth” at
125 Woodshire Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15215
We met last night at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side. Do you remember?
After an enjoyable show, in which I had a small part, you came down onto the stage to mingle. You approached myself and my exquisite lover and had the nerve
the ugly-ass nerve
to ask, “Do you usually dress like this?”
I was tired. I was hungry. I was thinking about returning home to sleep, to shower, to rest, to be a whole, corporeal, embodied, self-contained person when you asked me that question. For a minute or two, I gave you the benefit of the doubt and answered politely. Yes, I usually dress like this. No, this is not a costume for the theater. The frock? It’s from eBay.
Then I snapped awake and threw the question back at you, “Do you usually dress like this?” I hoped you’d get it. I hoped you’d hear how stupid, how insulting, how deeply invasive that question is when you’re on the other side of the word cannon. You answered that you, in fact, don’t usually dress like you were dressed last night.
Well, that’s one thing to be thankful for.
We explained, as nicely as we could, that your question usually leads to more personal, more violating questions. We gave examples. We were patient. And for all of those actions, I’d like to say: My apologies
to myself. Read the rest of this entry
Being trans isn’t always exciting.
In the mornings, I have bad breath and my eyes feel dry. Between 2:15 and 3:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I sit on the floor outside room G18 in the Cathedral of Learning, by myself, and wait for my Yoruba 1 class. My bus is always late. During all these moments, I am trans. Unremarkably so.
For all of the invasive reporting, self-narrating, and documenting which trans lives and bodies have undergone historically, the unending tediousness of trans existence – which is extra salient in our postmodern culture – goes unremarked upon.
(Updated from a previous version published under my old blog, “dani is 28.”)
…or at least that’s what one of my classmates thinks.
Yesterday, I braved the early stages of the Arctic Vortex (which sounds more like a Dairy Queen menu item than a weather front) and engaged in my usual start-of-the-semester routine: A bout of desperate, near manic excitement followed by complete exhaustion and anxiety. It was near the end of this first day foray when I heard those words I never longed to hear:
“How often do you cross-dress?”
Class had just ended. I was stuffing my syllabus and pencil into my shoulder bag when I heard a voice behind me call my name twice. “Dani! Dani!” Turning around, I did not recognize the speaker. My memory for faces and names is infamously poor. I regularly introduce myself to people who already know me. It happens so often that I’ve stopped feeling bad about it.
Turning around, I waved with my new semester cheer and blurted out, “Hi!” in a tone that would make Sister Mary Patrick sound glum. After all, this person probably knew me and, if I couldn’t remember their name or a single thing about them, I could at least be friendly. My classmate seemed startled by my familiar tone. Then she said:
“How often do you cross-dress?”
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This essay was originally written for Hali Felt’s “Art of the Essay” course at the University of Pittsburgh. It accompanied a time capsule containing coffee, jam, a paper label from a can of tomatoes, hair, magenta felt, a broken necklace, eggshells, Julie’s address, Fire Brick lipstick, and a smaller-print version of this essay.
Groove is in the heart. Or, at least, it will be in the heart. Or, at least, that’s what Dee-lite says. we’ll find out when I get there.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the deluge of Public Television swamis to sashay across my television screen, it’s this: you’re supposed to live in the present, the here-and-now, the moment, the instant. Regrets live in the past and fears live in the future, so if you live in the present, then those suppositional specters can’t come over for tea or ask for a cup of sugar or do all those other things nobody does at present. The broadcast ends before anyone tells you what to do once you’ve arrived in the present. You’re just told that you’re supposed to have arrived there (or is that here?) by now.
(Originally shared as a Facebook status on 11/20/2014)
I’m late with this commentary but, in some ways, my lateness is fitting.
Today is Trans Day of Remembrance – a day when we remember, mourn, celebrate, tell the stories of, and reaffirm the value of the lives of trans folk worldwide. This includes genderqueer, non-binary, and agender people. But it’s also a day on which we should reflect on the ways that anti-trans violence and cultural norms effect trans people of color – especially trans women of color – especially black trans women. This year alone, a heartwrenching number of black trans women were murdered just for being alive.
As trans folk, I think we are often treated as dead-at-birth. Who we are, who we want to become, how we see ourselves is killed the moment we’re named, given a “sex,” and forced through decades of socialization. This is especially true for trans individuals who experience misogyny, racism, anti-black racism, class discrimination, ableism, and ageism. The hard work, then, is to feel alive. To believe you are alive, to treat yourself as a living person, to live the way you want to live.
And even once we do feel alive, we’re expected to fit certain story lines. We’re told we were born in the wrong bodies. We’re diagnosed, offered counseling and “treatment.” The story lines themselves are even more destructive to people who do not fit the model of a white, middle-class, able-bodied, educated trans life. Many people are erased, ignored, or mangled by these story lines. Everyone wants me to tell my story, as though I could know it. As though it’s available to me. As though I have told that story to myself. But I haven’t. And I suspect the large majority of trans folk, like me, are always writing and, in that writing, searching for our stories.
I am gradually shifting the layout/focus of this site from an artist portfolio to a blog with some portfolio elements. Please excuse the missing content and pages!
Injustice works in a lot of (equally fucked-up) ways. In its most revolting form, it oozes into the back recesses of our minds, lurking and waiting. Like a sleeper-cell computer virus, it waits until we reach a moment of vulnerability – a moment when we are harassed, assaulted, put down, gaslighted, told that we’re “overreacting.” In that moment, it executes its programming and clouds our minds with endless strings of self-doubt, victim blaming, and shame.
It’s that feeling you get when someone shouts, “FAGGOT!” from their car and you think, “Maybe I should butch up.”
It’s that feeling you get when someone touches you without your permission and you think, “Maybe I shouldn’t have worn this dress.”
It’s that feeling, that unending feeling, that poverty is your fault. You did it. You are bad. Adam Smith personally smote you with his great, white, phallic hand.
And it’s that feeling I want to confront, to challenge, to refuse.
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