Saturday, October 31, 2015

To All You Guys Going as "Caitlyn:" It's Okay, Darling, We Know.

There’s already plenty of justifiable outrage among my trans brothers and sisters about the top trending Caitlyn Jenner costume this Halloween; I don’t need to repeat why it upsets us. That said, I have a public service announcement.

To the Guys Wearing the Caitlyn Jenner Costume this Halloween:

Finally, darling, right?! 

You’ve been waiting your whole life for a chance like this. We know the longing in your heart, and we’ll be there for you. We know how you duped your wives, girlfriends and partners into finding shoes, and how they had to be the right shoes.

Sure, they looked at you a little strangely when you said you wanted to shave your legs. We know how long you are looking in that mirror when no one is around. We know that you are going to hide that wig and shoes in a special place.

Breathe, darling. It’s OK.

Sure, there will be laughs at the party, especially when two of you in the costume pose for a shot together. Let’s see what they think next year when the two of you come as Jessica Rabbit and Katy Perry and announce you are moving in together.

It won’t be easy, darling, being the only ones in your town, but we know. Start saving for laser hair removal now; take a tip from a sister. No, breasts aren’t really that expensive.

We’ll be here.



Saturday, August 29, 2015

Since people are talking about #caitlynjenner 's visit  to the #abbey on social media today , allow me to share one from the vault. I'm pretty proud of my writing in this one.

"Fifty years ago, there would have been queer blood on this street, instead of queer love. Barney’s Beanery used to have a sign that said “Fagots: Stay Out”

"You can’t blame us for dancing. You can’t blame us for drinking and holding our bodies close. It’s harder to beat us and kill us, but it still happens. You raised us to hate ourselves, and only now are we barely human to you.

"I used to drink because I hated myself. I drank because I was never going to take Debbie to the Senior Prom: I wanted to be Debbie, in long white gloves and a backless dress, smoking on the patio with the other girls in shoes that were too tight.

"The THOOOOMP around us drives home the escape, the flight, the sensual overload we need to remember that we still may be strangers here; we drink, we tweak, we fuck, we snort, we rave. I used to try for that zone, that precious zone where the cocaine and tequila took me for a brief walk on a night with a cool breeze like this one, with a rain of jacaranda blossoms, in my dreams because in truth I was never going to be a girl; I was sentenced to life as a false front; I had the rage that only a prisoner feels, and if I’m honest with myself, I still do and always will."

From "Closing Time"  (c) 2014-15 Darya Teesewell

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hollywood "Takes Care of Its Own," Unless You Are Trans, Part 2

Recently I blogged about some of the challenges that trans people who live out here in Hollywood, a.k.a. America's Liberal Dream Factory, face when it comes to health care.

Let me underline exactly what those challenges mean. First, let's look at the big, broad, macro level of Hollywood optics. I'll use two celebrity examples; let's make it clear that since I know nothing of their own health care needs or realities, the "examples" are purely hypothetical.

 Eddie Redmayne is a talented actor who will appear in the film The Danish Girl as Lili Elbe, one of the modern world's first transsexual women. Mr. Redmayne is, as far as I know, a cisgender (meaning non-trans) man. If the film was made under Hollywood-based Screen Actors Guild agreements, Mr. Redmayne would most likely qualify for the Motion Picture Health Plan. So we have a cisgender man playing a transsexual woman in a big-budget blockbuster movie who qualifies for his male-oriented health care because... well... he's human, and a man.

 Laverne Cox is an award-winning actress who has appeared on Orange is the New Black, and is an outspoken, eloquent advocate for rights of trans people. Let's say that she made a film, or worked on a T.V. series under the Hollywood SAG agreement and had enough hours to qualify for health care. She might qualify, but the plan would still be able to refuse her trans-specific health care, in spite of her humanity and legal status as a woman. 

 Not being an idiot, I don't think that's likely to happen, and really, Ms. Cox's health care is none of my damn business. But let's make a theoretical comparison to Mr. Redmayne; Laverne would be a trans woman playing a part (trans or not) in a movie or series with contracts that include coverage under the same plan, but whether she gets trans-specific health care is completely up to the administrators of the plan. If the administrators decide that her care was part of that two-word exception "gender change," they would be within their rights to refuse her. 

 Mr. Redmayne, playing a trans woman: no problem. Ms. Cox, a real trans woman: we'll get back to you.

 I could pick other examples. Felicity Huffman vs. Candis Cayne. Hilary Swank vs. Turner Scott Schofield. None of these may apply in real life, but they point to a truth; trans people can be refused trans-specific health care under the current Motion Picture Plan PPO unless they opt for an HMO, and even then they are subjected to bureaucratic gymnastics and extra scrutiny. In all of these cases, actors are selling tickets or advertising for Hollywood by portraying trans identities. Let me put this bluntly: if we are we "interesting" enough for you, Hollywood, to tell our stories and make money doing it, why are we considered unfit to demand the health care we need to sustain those identities you are exploiting? 

 I'll say that again. Hollywood is exploiting us while considering us unfit for trans-specific health coverage. 

 Here's another example. Let's say I am a young, recently transitioned female camera assistant. The plan can, and has, refused the hormones I have been prescribed because they are for "gender change;" those two magic words that are "exceptions" according to the MPIPHP

 If I am a middle-aged man who feels a little listless, my doctor can prescribe a testosterone cream for me. If I am a middle aged woman, my doctor can prescribe an estrogen patch or cream for me; the same patches, or cream our camera assistant is refused. A trans man working as a grip would be in a similar fix. 

 The issue seems to be this; all health plans are watching the culture for cues. It's easy to find people in our culture who think that trans people don't exist because we are mentally ill, had smothering mothers or are possessed by demons doing the bidding of Satan. Politicians and bloviating radio rage-peddlers find us an easy target for raising a campaign slush fund or selling worthless gold contracts to rubes; we stir strong emotions, and that sells. We're yet another group of humans that people who are angry and scared can focus on to anesthetize themselves against reality. It's hard to hate someone that you humanize, so some people work hard at dehumanizing us. 

 More subtly, there are physicians and hospital administrators who cynically may see us as a group without any political clout or unified voice, and who may be tempted to stall, complicate or discourage us from demanding the health care we so rightfully deserve. Even my friends who have trans-inclusive health coverage are frustrated by the lack of education among physicians and wildly uneven interactions with organizations like Kaiser Health. 

There are also horrific cases of physicians who have allowed their personal feelings to interfere with urgent health needs of their patients. That's inexcusable. 

 Most trans people working on films in Hollywood aren't movie stars. Most of us are working crew people struggling to get by in the modern workplace like everyone else. Those of us lucky enough to have labor unions to protect our health care have just one simple request; give us what we need from the health plan we pay into, when we need it, and listen to us when we tell you that you can do it better for us than you have in the past.

 It's time for Hollywood to truly take care of all of "Our Own."