All posts by Paul Novitski

What I Said at Girl Talk

cross posted at Fukshot

Marlene Says:

Girl Talk was an amazing experience, as it has been in years past. This time I was given the great honor of being asked to speak. I was plenty intimidated by the fact that I was on stage with some of the folks I respect most in the world. Big thanks to Debbie for her help as I was writing this piece.

I’m going to start by telling a story about someone telling a story about something someone else once said. Occasionally, people mistake me for younger than I am, so I’ll clarify by saying that this telling stories about telling stories is post-modern, not meta.

In Gender Outlaw, Kate tells about being involved in some sort of panel discussion. She is doing what Kate does, shaking apart presumptions about how identities are structured, and she asks her audience “What if I strapped on a dildo and fucked you? Then what would I be?” Carol Queen pipes up with “Nostalgic!”

I giggled the first time I read it. I grinned for an hour, actually.

I put together everything I knew from reading about these people I did not know. I knew that Carol was a kinky dyke who played with fags. I had read what would become the first chapter of <em>The Leather Daddy and the Femme</em> in <em>Taste of Latex</em>. I knew Carol was part of the same push towards a new queer revolution that I was part of. Reading these words, I knew that Carol and Kate were fond of each other. I knew that there was a friendship in the world that was like the friendships I would need. A queer trans woman, who was the only trans woman who had ever written a book that talked about her queerness, had a friendship with a queer cis woman.

That made me feel a little safer. That made me feel like I was going to be OK.

I was alone in my room in a new city where I had lived just a few months. The copy of Gender Outlaw was borrowed from a friend. Within weeks I would be paying a trans woman with a MFCC to write me a hormone letter. I think it was 40 bucks and that included a half hour conversation in a coffee shop on Haight Street where she told me about the different hormones folks used and the name of the friendly endocrinologist in town who looked and spoke like Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

Any other survivors of the Smilo cocktail here? It consisted of a slightly high dose of premarin, a slightly high dose of estinyl (that’s 2 kinds of estrogen, either of which would be plenty by themselves) and provera, which made me want to have a baby. I’m glad I stopped taking that.

My monthly hormone expense was more than my rent.

I got a job as a messenger. I couldn’t pass and had almost no luck finding work. Delivering other people’s legal papers and enormous checks kept me fed. I worked for one of the bigger messenger companies. I would rather have worked for Lickety Split, the dyke messenger company, but I wasn’t welcome. The girls who rode for Lickety Split wouldn’t even talk to me when we met on the street, or in an elevator.

A dyke I knew took me out to see a performance. I think it was at theater Rhinocerous, or maybe some other incarnation of some other space somewhere in that same building. It was a women only event. A friend she introduced me to made compliments about my appearance with the finest of butch manners. I was petrified and didn’t know if I was being made fun of. I don’t think I said anything.

After the performance some dyke with a mullet said I shouldn’t be there. A butch who I still see around town told her she was mistaken. It turned into a short-lived fight. Mullet took off, but I was too uncomfortable to accept an invitation to the bar with the others.

When I had first read the beginnings of The Leather Daddy and the Femme, I was living as a fag in a relationship with a dyke.  Transition wasn’t my introduction to the world of queer women. My partner’s friends were also my friends and I knew the culture and the social norms as well as any other world I had lived in.

I went to a support group meeting for trans women. They were all in their forties, and straight, and they had jobs down town, and wore polyester skirt suits. I didn’t go back.

I had a friend named Casey,  another trans woman who was a little too butch for the trans women support groups. She also had a motorcycle. She was also serious about her kink. We didn’t hang out except at the waiting room at Tom Waddell, but we would see each other around and that was important to both of us. There was another one like us, but she was older and not very friendly, but it was good to know she existed too. Casey died in her sleep.

I went to a meeting of FTM International in my capacity as a dildo maker. I asked the guys what they wanted and took their thoughts back with me to influence future designs. I made a few friends. I met boys who had just been kinky punkrock 20-something dykes, like I was becoming. They were becoming kinky punkrock 20-something faggots, like I had just been. They gave me the lowdown on what pieces of the local dyke community I shouldn’t even bother with. We used brand new words together like non-operative transsexual. I also learned what it feels like to be a girl with a crush on a faggot who really doesn’t do girls.

I haven’t spoken to my mother in years, but I am the woman she raised on the children’s stories published in Ms Magazine. She taught me to question what the male dominated medical establishment tells us about what our bodies are and what our bodies mean. I don’t think she has any idea how useful that lesson was.

Some things are pretty much the same now as they were when I started transition, but most things are really different. At the first Girl Talk, Julia talked about the greatest barrier to trans women’s participation in queer women’s space. She called for the destruction of the insider/outsider myth; the myth that trans women were aliens to queer women’s spaces. In fact, we have been there for a very long time. I knew she was right because I knew the reason I am no longer anxious in those spaces is that I have been in those spaces long enough that I can’t be intimidated out of them. I am no longer very good at picking up on those things that might make trans women uncomfortable. The girl taking money at the door, who might make me feel unwelcome? My Exiles membership lapsed due to my being too lazy to cross the bay from Oakland before she had ever seen two girls kiss.

I was very lucky in some ways. Even with the occasional less-than-warm welcome from the queer women’s community, I got the welcome that I really needed.

I met a much older trans man who was just starting transition. He had lived as a butch dyke as far back as the fifties. We talked about the ways, new and old of our shared world of queer women. We only had a few conversations, but one night, I came home to a letter from him.

19FEB95

Dear Marlene,

Last time we talked you mentioned that you need $1500 for electrolysis – I wonder if  you would permit me to give it to you –

This is not a loan but a gift. I sold my old apartment at a slight profit in October. So this is a sum I can spare – it was an unexpected windfall –

When I was young my older friends kept me afloat for years – by various kindnesses – + I feel the need to pass it along – please take and enjoy – be well –

Girl Talk

 Marlene says:

I have written here about the first Girl Talk a couple of years ago. I was very excited about it. I am now even more excited because I have been asked to speak this year. In fact, it happens next week. I’ve been mulling over all sorts of clever things to say about why you should go see it, but the truth is that this is simply a very special event populated by some of the smartest people I have ever met/heard/read. If nothing else, you can come watch me sweat while I try to keep up with people I consider my heroes.

I’ll be posting more about it after the event.

Girl Talk: A Trans & Cis Woman Dialogue Thursday, March 24th, 2011 7:00pm – 10:00pm San Francisco LGBT Community Center – Ceremonial Room 1800 Market Street between Octavia & Laguna Tickets: $12-$20 (no one turned away!) (Link to BrownPaperTickets site: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/163744 I strongly recommend that you get tix in advance — we sold out very fast last year.)

Queer cisgender women and queer transgender women are allies, friends, support systems, lovers, and partners to each other. Trans and cis women are allies to each other every day — from activism that includes everything from Take Back the Night to Camp Trans; to supporting each other in having “othered” bodies in a world that is obsessed with idealized body types; to loving, having sex, and building family with each other in a world that wants us to disappear.

Girl Talk is a spoken word show fostering and promoting dialogue about these relationships. Trans and cis women will read about their relationships of all kinds – sexual and romantic, chosen and blood family, friendships, support networks, activist alliances. Join us for a night of stories about sex, bodies, feminism, activism, challenging exclusion in masculine-centric dyke spaces, dating and breaking up, finding each other, and finding love and family.

FEATURING: Mira Bellwether, Gina de Vries, Tara Hardy, Tobi Hill-Meyer, Marlene Hoeber, Sadie Lune, Elena Rose, aka little light, Ray Rubin ***Curated & hosted by Gina de Vries, Elena Rose, & Julia Serano.

 PERFORMER BIOS:

MIRANDA BELLWETHER is a 28 year old trans dyke and student. She is a femme, a queer, a dork, a loudmouth, and lots of other things. Her interests include the 1920s, literature, masculinity, homos, conversation, rodents, and of course sex and sexuality. She is the creator and editor of “Fucking Trans Women,” a zine about the sex lives of trans women and our lovers.

GINA DE VRIES is a genderqueer femme, a queer Paisan pervert, and a writer, performer, and activist with a long history doing political organizing in and with queer, trans, and sex worker communities. She is the founder and co-curator (with Julia & Rose) of “Girl Talk: a trans & cis woman dialogue,” and is very proud to be producing the show for the third year running. Gina edited the queer youth anthology [Becoming] in 2004. Her writing has been anthologized dozens of places, from the academic to the pornographic. Her publications include Coming & Crying: true stories about sex from the other side of the bed, Take Me There: Trans & Genderqueer Erotica, Bound to Struggle: Where Kink and Radical Politics Meet, The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Partner Violence Within Activist Communities, $pread: Illuminating the Sex Industry, Femmethology, Girl Crush, and Curve, make/shift, and On Our Backs magazines. Gina was the head curator of the San Francisco in Exile queer performance series from 2006-2010. Shows she’s produced include “Ecstasies & Elegies” (for International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers), “Rebel Girl: a riot grrrl nostalgia show,” and “Cherry: queering virginity.” Gina has performed, taught, and lectured everywhere from chapels to leatherbar backrooms. Recent university appearances include Harvard University, Yale University, and Reed College. She regularly teaches writing for WriteHereWriteNow queer & trans writers workshop in Boston, Massachusetts; regularly presents on issues ranging from sex work to intersex activism for the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program of the Reproductive Rights Activist Service Corps; and works a day job fundraising for St. James Infirmary, the nation’s only clinic run by and for current & former sex workers. She is the founder and facilitator of Sex Workers’ Writing Workshop, a writing class for current and former sex workers at San Francisco’s Center for Sex & Culture (where she also serves on the Advisory Board). A graduate of Hampshire College, Gina is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing at San Francisco State University, where she is working on a memoir and a book of short stories. Find out more at ginadevries.com, and keep track of her on the daily at queershoulder.tumblr.com.

TARA HARDY is the working class queer femme poet who founded Bent, a writing institute for LGBTIQ people in Seattle, WA. She is a founding member of Salt Lines, the all woman performance poetry group that toured the U.S. in March of 2009 and 2010 in honor of Women’s History Month. Tara has been finalist on National Poetry Slam stages 7 times and is currently the highest ranking woman in the Individual World Poetry Slam. She’s been the Seattle Grand Slam Champion three times, and was elected Seattle Poet Populist in 2002. Tara has been the keynote speaker for Seattle University’s Lavendar Graduation, Humboldt University’s 2009 Kink on Campus presented by the Women’s Center, and Seattle’s 2008 Dyke March. A daughter of the United Auto Workers, and activist in the Battered Women’s Movement, she is committed to art as a tool for social change. Her upcoming book, Bring Down the Chandeliers, is due from Write Bloody Press in the spring of 2011. To contact Tara, or arrange for a performance, email wordyfemme@hotmail.com. Her webpage is www.tarahardy.net. You may find her on MySpace at www.myspace.com/tarahardygetsbent

TOBI HILL-MEYER (www.HandbasketProductions.com) is just about your average multiracial, pansexual, transracially inseminated queerspawn, genderqueer, transdyke, colonized mestiza, pornographer, activist, writer. She has given talks on several campuses and her writing has appeared in And Baby Makes More: Known Donor’s, Queer Parents and our Unexpected Families, Who’s Your Daddy?: And Other Writings on Queer Parenting, and Best Lesbian Erotica 2010. She directed and produced the first porn film by and for trans women, Doing it Ourselves: The Trans Women Porn Project, and just finished work on her latest film, The Genderfellator, a campy sci-fi pornographic parody of a little known transphobic film from 2007. Her zines and films can be found at HandbasketProductions.com.

MARLENE HOEBER is a long time queer, kink, trans, sex-positive, feminist, social justice activist and a devout pervert. She is currently Director of Collections at the archive of the Center for Sex and Culture. Marlene was a founding member of the world’s first college campus based BDSM organization in 1991. She has worked in diverse trades such as dildo manufacturing, jewelry, motorcycle repair, tool design and laboratory management. Her hobbies include target shooting and cognac “tasting”. Her writing can be found at Fukshot and Body Impolitic.

SADIE LUNE is a multimedia artist, absurdist, sex worker, and pleasure activist. She has won awards for her films and performances, exhibited explicit whore-positive work in museums, and shown her cervix internationally. Her writing on art and sex is published in books and magazines in the United States and Europe. Sadie is currently working on “Biological Clock” a queer fertility ritual performance as part of her ongoing project Teaching Myself to Love. She is looking for patrons, sperm donors, and a wife of any gender. Sadie lives in San Francisco with her three snakes.

ELENA ROSE, a Filipina-Ashkenazic mixed-class trans dyke mestiza, is a writer, preacher, scholar, and survivor from rural Oregon. Dedicated to the projects of radical love, community building, and queer ministry, she writes online as “little light” at http://takingsteps.blogspot.com and elsewhere, serves on the advisory board of the Allied Media Conference in Detroit, and was a charter member of the Speak! Radical Women of Color Media Collective. A sweet-talking monster at the mic, Rose has performed to sold-out crowds up and down the Pacific coast, from multiple headline shows in Portland to collaborations with the Bay’s Mangos With Chili and Seattle’s TumbleMe Productions, and has twice been a San Francisco Pride Featured Performer with the National Queer Arts Festival production, Girl Talk: A Cis and Trans Woman Dialogue. Her writing has found its way everywhere from law school classrooms and academic conferences to bathroom mirrors and protest marches, and has met print in magazines including Aorta and Make/Shift. After the dust settles on Rose’s coast-to-coast tour this spring, she will be busy finishing her first book, Mountain of Myrrh, to be published by Dinah Press. Rose currently resides with her wife in northern California, where she stays busy being in good stories. She carries a pen, her ancestors, and the mismatched ID of a citizen of the borderlands with her at all times.

RAY RUBIN is an FTMTF anti-capitalist that spends most of her day asking people for money. She is an activist for Lower-Haight, gluten-free, post-PCOS, rickets survivors who listen to public radio. She’s especially fond of independent publishing & has written for a number of zines that can be found at the free section in Dog Eared Books.

JULIA SERANO is an Oakland, California-based writer, performer and trans activist. She is the author of Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (Seal Press, 2007), a collection of personal essays that reveal how misogyny frames popular assumptions about femininity and shapes many of the myths and misconceptions people have about transsexual women. Julia’s other writings have appeared in anthologies (including Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, Word Warriors: 30 Leaders in the Women’s Spoken Word Movement and Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape), in feminist, queer, pop culture and literary magazines and websites (such as Bitch, AlterNet.org, Out, Feministing.com, Clamor, make/shift, and others), and have been used as teaching materials in gender studies, queer studies, psychology and human sexuality courses in colleges across North America. For more information about all of her creative endeavors, check out www.juliaserano.com.