Faithful Image Has Moved!

2011 September 22

If you read my previous entry, you know that WordPress is hosting a sexist, cissexist hate blog that has provided a platform for people to plan to physically harm trans women. Because I do not want a business so devoid of character to use my blog to generate advertising revenue, I have decided to move Faithful Image to Dreamwidth, which has the advantage of being ad-free, even without a subscription.

If you have included Faithful Image in your blogroll, please update the link to reflect its new location. If you would like to contribute to future discussions on Faithful Image, please read the blog’s new profile, including the updated policy, and keep me accountable if I fail to keep up my end of the agreement.

The Blog’s New Location
The Blog’s New RSS Feed


On WordPress and Hate Speech

2011 September 15

As LiveJournal user labelle77 and Lisa Harney at Questioning Transphobia have reported, a certain radical feminist has been using a WordPress blog to post the pictures of trans women she reports to have entered the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (hereafter, MichFest) along with commentary that has a high probability of inciting some of her blog’s visitors to commit acts of physical violence against trans women. (Out of respect for trans women’s lives and well-being I will not be posting a link to the blog here.)

If you do not know already, MichFest is a music festival whose organizers have long had a policy of excluding trans women from the festival or, as they code it, of hosting a festival that is only for “womyn-born womyn”. There was a time when the organizers prevented trans women from entering. Beginning in 2006, however, the policy has been to put the burden of policing on individuals, asking interested trans women to respect that the festival is not intended for them but not denying them ticket sales. With this change many trans women began to attend the festival, but several outspoken people who attend MichFest continue to oppose trans women’s presence.

The woman whose blog is the subject of this entry is one such person. Having seen the offending post myself, I have a few observations. First, I believe it is, if anything, an understatement to say as Lisa Harney has that the post “practically incites violence against” trans women. At least one of the people leaving comments have has called for trans women to be bodily thrown out despite the fact that there has been no change in MichFest’s policy, and I believe that someone who already has misogynistic, transphobic inclinations would be inclined to do worse. Second, this is a matter that affects more people than just those trans women who choose to attend MichFest. The woman who was the radical feminist blogger’s original source of information has said she believes that two of the women listed in the post were not at MichFest, but the blogger has not removed any names. This suggests that any woman the blogger perceives as trans could have her name and picture listed on the web site and be made the subject of ridicule for failing to meet her standard of womanhood. (Of course, this would be a tragedy, even if the women already listed were the only parties who were affected.) My third and final observation is that by any reasonable interpretation of WordPress’s Terms of Service the WordPress staff should take action against the blogger. WordPress’s inaction when it comes to this matter is as deplorable as the blogger’s action.

And so I leave you with a question, dear reader: Where do I take Faithful Image now?


“Why Go on Living?”

2011 September 10

Dear Transgender Sibling,

I have noticed that today you found my blog after using this search query:

transgender “why go on living”

There are a lot of reasons someone might input this search phrase, but I am going to risk erring and assume you are a transgender person who is asking yourself a question I have asked myself countless times before: “Why go on living?”

I do not know about the specifics of your situation, but I can tell you a bit about mine. When I first told my mother that I was a girl, I encountered hostility, and that was only a preview of things to come. When I came out to the family member I thought was the most likely to be supportive, she ended all communication with me. I have survived abuse at the hands of a partner who used misgendering as an instrument of pain. I recently had a painful reminder that even a close friend and ally can fuck up in an inexcusable way. I am currently worried that I will lose a source of income once I come out to an institution that has in the past paid me for my work. If it seems that I am trying to make this all about me, I am sorry. That is not my intention. Rather the point I want to make is that when I say, “I know being transgender is hard,” I am not (entirely) full of shit. I know being transgender is hard.

So why go on living? I am not presumptuous enough to know what the answer is for you, but I can tell you what it is for me: Love. I do not mean the love cisgender people have for me. Perhaps you can relate when I say that cisgender people’s love is elusive, and it seems it is always on vacation when I am at my lowest. I also do not mean the love of other transgender people. There are a number of factors, including the structures in the cissexist society we live in, that have by and large kept me from establishing close relationships with other transgender people. When I say that love is the answer for me, I mean my love for transgender people. Looking back, I can say without hyperbole that the people who have inspired me the most over the past few years have all been transgender. More importantly, I love transgender people for the resilience we show when we refuse to deny our gender identities and our gender expressions when most of society or even our very bodies seem to mock us for it—resilience that you no doubt understand, my transgender sibling. I seldom say this, especially here, because I created this blog in part as an act of resistance against people who thrust me into the position of being the person who is transgender above all else, when quite often what I want to do is organize around women’s issues or queer issues. But when it comes to women’s issues, I am most passionate about the issues that affect transgender women, and when it comes to queer issues, I am most passionate about the issues that affect transgender queer people. The cisgender people I love most know that if they ever lose sight of the fact that they are your and my oppressors, they will lose whatever place of significance they have in my life. No matter what I do transgender people are never far from my mind.

If I were to off myself today, I would no longer be able to play a role in preserving a record of the contributions transgender people have made. I would no longer be able to talk about Sketch, the Chicago artist I had the privilege of meeting shortly before ze died in 2005 and who is often frequently misgendered and misnamed in cisgender people’s accounts of hir life. I would no longer be able to call out the cisgender feminists who say that transgender women have no place in conversations about reproductive rights and remind them that it was a transgender woman—namely, Kinsey AKA Genderbitch—who gave us one of the most cogent and widely-known defenses of the pro-choice stance. I would no longer be able to commemorate the transgender people of Stellar—people who surmounted a number of personal challenges to resist the Chicago Dyke March Collective’s cissexism in 2010. Cisgender people, especially those who are actively involved in our oppression, typically do not record our history for us. Like it or not, if we want these memories preserved, we will have to be the archivists.

Sometimes my love for transgender people manifests itself as rage—rage for the people who hate us or hurt us. There are people who say that nothing constructive can come from anger. I say, “Fuck them.” Many people have channeled their anger into constructive outcomes. And why this sweeping dismissal of everything that is destructive? The society we live in has a wide array of irredeemably cissexist structures that are unworthy of nothing more than being smashed to bits. There are people who say anger is a negative emotion. I say, “Fuck them.” If in my anger you, my dear transgender sibling, are the only person who sees that there is someone in this fucked up world who gives a damn, no emotion has ever served me better.

I go on living so that I can go on fighting. I fight to help build a world where no transgender person has to die in a hate crime or has to feel that they have nothing to live for. And don’t think for a moment this doesn’t include you. The first time I went to a Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil I was still pre-ho (i.e. still infused with emotion-suppressing testosterone), but I nevertheless fell into inconsolable sobbing when the names were read—names of people I had never had the opportunity to meet. The next time I read that a transgender person has committed suicide, I will likely respond in much the same way. It is not at all unusual for people who believe they have no influence in their lives to affect people profoundly in their deaths.

I cannot tell you why you should go on living. This is something you will need to figure out for yourself. As I said, I can only tell you why I go on living. I hope that you find something of value in what I have said. If you should want me to clarify or expand on anything I have written, please write to me.

Yours in the struggle,
Veronika

E-mail: faithfulimage@gmail.com


To Hold So Much

2011 August 9

This entry contains the most difficult disclosure I have ever posted to this blog. If you consider me a friend, you might find it to be a difficult read.

As far as I can tell, there is not yet any widespread term for the experience that I want to write about. The word I use for myself is demiplatonic; here is how I define the term:

demiplatonic, adj., developing no feelings of friendship towards a person without having romantic or sexual feelings towards them.

Upon doing a web search I have only found one instance in which someone used this term in a similar way, but in this case they used it a bit more broadly, meaning that they had to get to know a person well before having feelings of friendship towards them. While I think this is interesting, it does not make it immediately obvious why I find myself in a tight spot. I believe that most people feel differently about people they know well than they do about people they have recently met, even if most white and middle class people in the West refer to both sorts of people as friends.* If I am being honest, I can distinguish between friends and acquaintances. What makes me different from many others is that unless I have feelings ordinarily associated with romantic and sexual relationships no acquaintance of mine will ever cross the divide into friend territory. (Note that now and henceforth in this blog I will be using the word friends to refer to people with whom I have genuinely reciprocated feelings of friendship. I am sorry to say that this does not include everyone I have previously called my friends.)

Just to be sure we are on the same page, dear reader, I would like to break this down a bit more, analyzing parts that I think deserve further explanation. First, take demi-. The prefix means half. The idea I hope to convey with this is that a demiplatonic person is at a “halfway” point between having a large pool of potential friends and no pool of potential friends. The term is thus analogous to demisexual. I do not mean to suggest that the feelings of friendship a demiplatonic person does have are in any way half-formed or inauthentic. When it comes to the phrase feelings of friendship, I mean the feelings from which the propensities that distinguish friendship from other kinds of relationships—propensities like trust and reciprocity—arise. As for romantic or sexual feelings, the operative word here is feelings. It is not necessarily the case that a demiplatonic person has had a romantic or sexual relationship with any of their friends or that they have ever wanted to have a romantic or sexual relationship with them. Finally, please note that there is nothing in the definition to suggest that a demiplatonic person has the converse experience of having feelings of friendship towards every person they are sexually attracted to.

Though I can say what demiplatonic is by my definition, I will not attempt to make generalizations about actual demiplatonic people. This is because at this time I am the only demiplatonic person I know. I have known people to make comments that in hindsight make me wonder if they were also demiplatonic, but I have no contact with them. Thus, if I am to share what it is like to be demiplatonic, I must speak from my own experience.

I do not know if I have always been demiplatonic. Considering how much of my girlhood I spent with boys I definitely was not attracted to, it may be that during my youth my friendships took a different trajectory than they do now. But even from an early age I had, if nothing else, demiplatonic tendencies. If I had to summarize what I did from Ages 8–18 in one word, I would say, “Pining.” The journals I kept at the time were full of expressions of yearning for whichever girl I had fallen for most recently or, if it was one of those rare occasions on which I had no crush, of what the ideal girl for me would be like. It is these latter expressions that were perhaps the most telling: What I wanted above all was a best friend. Despite already having someone in my life whom I felt comfortable calling my best friend, there remained an unfulfilled longing. Without having the experience of romantic or sexual interest a friendship (if it can be called that) felt incomplete at best.

By the time I was in my early 20s my life had all the fixtures I have come to associate with being demiplatonic: Apart from my romantic interests (which I had one at a time) I felt isolated. The cords that had bound me to the “friends” of my youth were broken; once I told them I was an atheist, they dropped me like coal from hell. There was one person I might have called a friend, a woman whom I had wanted to be my girlfriend in high school, had I not lost touch with her the year we graduated. It was during this time of isolation that I connected with the second woman who would come to occupy a space in my current circle of friends. I am not sure when I first realized I had fallen hard for her, but I definitely knew it on the day words we had exchanged led me to conclude that she had no romantic feelings for me. I was devastated, and not much later I felt worse when she told me that she had feelings for someone else. On the bright side, this marked a turning point for me. I learned the extent to which my love, intense though it was, could drive me to be a supportive and encouraging friend just as easily as it might have driven me to be a passionate romantic partner. What’s more, it was a joy to know that my feelings of friendship were reciprocated—that I had a real friend. Since then, I have found that for me the formation of a friendship has usually fit this same pattern:

  1. I become romantically and sexually interested in a person.
  2. There is (perceived) reciprocal interest on the part of the loved one, and I fall hard for her and experience the initial feelings of friendship.
  3. The loved one tells me that she no longer has or did not ever have romantic feelings for me.
  4. While nursing my hurt, I do all I can to maintain the relationship.
  5. I find myself in a friendship far more fulfilling than the relationships I have with people for whom I have never had romantic or sexual feelings.

During the years when this scenario was playing itself out, I tried to form friendships by more conventional means. I met up with people who initially struck me as interesting. Time and time again I’d run into a barrier: Though I wanted to experience feelings of friendship towards them, I found that I could not do so. Usually spending time with these acquaintances came to feel like drudgery. Even so, I kept it up, because it seemed polite and because it seemed unreasonable to exclude people I was not attracted to from my circle of friends. Though I would have happily listened to a friend read from the white pages, the only other people I could enjoy listening to for a significant length of time were those acquaintances I saw as friendship material—that is, the people in whom I saw prospects for a romantic or sexual relationship—and those acquaintances who could talk at great lengths about topics I found interesting. There were times I entertained the idea of trying to have romantic or sexual interaction with acquaintances for whom I had absolutely no feelings of attraction, because I thought it might spark friendly feelings. Looking back on this now, it strikes me as a glaringly obvious sign that I was demiplatonic, but having never encountered the word or the concept, I could not consider the possibility. Apart from the few who are currently in my circle the only friends I made during this time were romantic partners, but because the romantic components of our relationships came to an unpleasant end, I found it difficult to maintain relationships of any sort with them.

Upon reflecting on the circumstances under which I first have feelings of friendship some might wonder how easy it is for me to move on once I learn that someone who has been a romantic interest wants to “just be friends”. I won’t lie: In each of my friendships romantic associations remain. If nothing else, the narrative of what is destined to be that I mentally compose amidst budding romantic feelings never fades completely; it simply becomes a narrative of what ought to have been, giving each of my friendships a bittersweet quality that I can never put out of my mind entirely. However, coming out to myself as demiplatonic has brought about a new peace of mind. If friends is a broad category that includes everyone I have ever felt coerced into wearing a mask for, then it is only in a dim future that the people I have developed deep feelings for are just friends. But if friends is an exclusive group delimited by a love like no other, then saying my friends are just friends is like saying that the Canterbury Cathedral is just the Canterbury Cathedral. From now on I will only use friend to convey just how amazing and integral I find my friends to be. I do not know if the melancholy of friendship will ever dissipate completely, but I can look forward to the joys of friendship becoming all the more joyous.

Perhaps now it is easy to see why coming out as demiplatonic is awkward for me in ways that coming out as a trans woman never was. The people whose opinions matter most to me are queer folks, trans folks, or allies, and so when I came out in 2009 I knew I would have their support. But by sharing what being demiplatonic has meant for me I am essentially telling everyone I have ever called a friend that they are either not a friend but an acquaintance or not only a friend but someone for whom my feelings have romantic associations. I believe there are people in my life who would not be comfortable sitting on either prong of this fork, and I wish there were a way I could live my life authentically without hurting them. When I first started to mentally compose this entry, I planned to devote a couple of paragraphs to reassuring my acquaintances that I care for them, even if I don’t consider them friends, and reassuring my friends that that I’m not going to cross their boundaries, whatever associations my feelings might have. However, I have never intentionally used this blog to put the concerns of the beneficiaries of an oppression over the concerns of the oppressed, and this is no time to start. I hope you, dear reader, have found that I strive to express the sentiments that the oppressed assent to in order to let them know they are not alone, even when this means alienating some people. And perhaps now you more fully understand why the feeling of being alone has been a pervasive part of my experience and why I leap at the opportunity to help myself or another person feel a little less alone. I am convinced that whatever difficulty I might encounter in coming out will never compare to the pain I have endured in silence.

I need the people in my life to understand that I might not want to spend a lot of time with an acquaintance, even if the acquaintance regards me as a friend. Of course, being autistic I am often blind to social obligations, and I appreciate it when people respectfully tell me how I can avoid committing a faux pas, much as I appreciate it when people respectfully point out when my auditory processing disorder has caused me to get someone’s name wrong. However, in my struggle for demiplatonic self-determination (and autistic self-determination, for that matter) it is ultimately for me to decide whether it is in my interest to respect the conventions of a privileged institution or flout them altogether. I have spent most of my life contorting myself in accordance with a social order created by people whose understanding of friendship I could not afford to ignore. Now it is time to make my view of friendship understood.

Having saved my most important words for last, I will now address any other demiplatonic person who might read this: I want to hear from you. We have a lot to learn from each other. For reasons I will not need to explain to you I cannot promise that we will be friends, but, if nothing else, I would like to be your comrade. Coming out is the right decision for me, but as one of my precious friends has helped me understand others will find themselves in circumstances that require them to keep the closet door closed. If you find yourself in this situation, I hope you can trust that I will keep your confidence and write to me at faithfulimage@gmail.com. Whatever feelings of loneliness you might have, you are not alone.

*Describing an alternative, Rachel Simmons says in Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls that many working class black girls in the US make a distinction between “friends” and “associates”, with only the former having established that they will defend their counterparts, even when said counterparts are not present.


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

2011 July 8

A number of bloggers have recently shared their experiences or the experiences other people had at a Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting that was held in Boystown on Wednesday. I believe their accounts raise vital questions about the sort of “safety” the police officers of the 23rd district and “concerned Lakeview residents” would bring us, if they were given the opportunity to do so.

Gender JUST youth leaders respond to increased policing and profiling, racist attacks, and harassment after recent incidents violence in Boystown/Lakeview
Among other concerns Gender JUST writes about the racist and classist rhetoric employed by some people at the meeting. (Full disclosure: Though I did not contribute in any way to this press release, I am a member of Gender JUST.)

How to Report an Oriental Criminal
The Angry Asian Man writes about racist language used in a publication distributed by the Chicago Police Department at the meeting.

White Lakeview Residents Turn Out in Droves to Claim Their Territory
thecuntcrusader writes about her experience of the meeting, including being assaulted.

The Youth of Color in Boystown Don’t Call Me “Faggot” or “Tranny”

2011 July 5

Recently members of Gender JUST protested a “positive loitering” organized by people whose stated aim was to “take back Boystown”. (Full disclosure: Though I was not present at this event, I am a member of Gender JUST.) The reason for the protest was that members of Gender JUST saw it as the latest in a series of efforts to intimidate working class queer and transgender youth of color who come to Boystown. According to Kate Sosin of the Windy City Times several members of the “Take Back Boystown” page have blamed youth of color for recent criminal activity in posts that make claims like the following:

These trannys are bringing their homey G boyfriends into the neighborhood courtesy of The Center on Halsted. You can tell who they are by the way they act.

According to Sosin, Rob Sall, the organizer of the “positive loitering” event, conceded that the Facebook page “is extremely racially charged”. The racist, classist, ageist, cissexist rhetoric is not new. On 2009 September 2 the Windy City Times published a letter by someone identified only as “a concerned Lakeview resident”, who blamed “Center on Halsted youth clients” and “transsexual prostitutes” for Lakeview’s “crime issues”.

What do I have to say about this?

On the day of my first direct action in 2004 it was not youth of color in Boystown who arrested three queer rights activists, kicked one of them, and called him a “faggot”. It was one of the officers policing the pride parade.

It is not youth of color in Boystown who have been making transmisogynistic comments in letters to the editor or on Facebook. It is the people who have been scapegoating them.

I have been sexually assaulted twice in Boystown. I do not have a single young person, a single person of color, or a single transgender person to lay the blame on for either of these incidents.

“Concerned Lakeview residents”, if you want Boystown to be safe, stop threatening the safety of young people. Stop theatening the safety of people of color. Stop threatening the safety of transgender people. Stop trying to “take back” Boystown from working class queer folks, when Boystown was the community of working class queer folks before the businesses and the middle class gays moved in. If you want Boystown to be safe, stop threatening the safety of me and my friends.

2011–07-07 Edit: I have substituted the word assaulted for the less accurate term accosted.


Policy

2011 July 3

Today in the moderation queue I found what might have been the first thoroughly insensitive comment posted on this blog. Reading it, I faced a dilemma familiar to many leftist bloggers: Do I respect the principle of freedom of speech, or do I respect the oppressed people who stand to be hurt by the insensitive comment? Because I did not yet have a comment policy in place, I felt considerable weight could be given to the idea that I owed it to the poster to publish the comment. But in the end I let the golden rule be my guide: Because I would not have wanted to be the target of certain language that the commenter directed at another commenter, I trashed the comment.

While that solved the problem at hand (albeit in a less than ideal manner), it demonstrated the need for a change. I believe that all commenters, even the most insensitive, deserve the opportunity to have some idea of what content I will reject before they put time into composing their comments. With that in mind I created a policy, which will from now on be accessible in the bar that runs across the top of the blog. (The policy includes the already implemented policy on triggers, mostly unchanged.) My goal is to create a policy that acknowledges power imbalances and is fair to everyone. I would appreciate feedback, including constructive criticism.


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