I was scheduled to appear on HuffPost Live today alongside Tiq Milan, Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler, and Reina Gossett to discuss Trans H4CK, The Trans 100, and the way in which technology is impacting the transgender community.
I learned at the last moment that Tiq and Kortney had pulled out in protest over the host, Josh Zepps, who had an exceedingly condescending exchange with activist Suey Park regarding her objections to the Colbert Report’s joke at the expense of Asian people. Upon learning of this, Reina and I pulled out as well.
The Trans 100 was founded upon principles of intersectional awareness, acknowledgement of the realities of privilege, and the way systemic racism hurts all of us.
Personally, I was long seen & treated by this world as a straight white man. I intimately understand that privilege and the blindness it causes. It has taken the loss of some of that privilege, hard work, and lots of input from friends, for me to even begin overcoming some of that blindness. It’s still a struggle for me, and I still occasionally enact racist behaviors.
I will always benefit from my history as a white man, and it always impacts my interactions & perspective. The least I can do is be aware of it. I expect any fellow white person who is engaging in a dialogue with people of color, or any man speaking with a woman, or any cis person dealing with a trans person, to likewise acknowledge their position.
I was very much looking forward to talking publicly with my colleagues and I hope we can find either another host, or another forum. Thank you.
There is controversy over a book given to some South Florida school students some parents say should never be in their hands.
"The contents of the book: sex, it spoke of masturbation, spoke of racism, just blatant throughout the entire book," said parent Edward Johnson.
The book is called “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” and it was given out at Miami Northwestern Senior High School in Miami-Dade. The parents of two students headed to the school on Monday said something had to be done.
The book overall is about a Native American teen who goes to a predominately white school and what happens to him there.
The school board told us they believe Northwestern Senior High is the only school to hand it out, but it’s what’s inside the book that had the principal sitting down face to face with the families on Monday.
“The book speaks of masturbation. Like I say, it speaks of men sticking things in different holes and having sex with trees. It speaks of African-Americans having sex with buffaloes to make Indians,” Johnson said.
That’s what parent Edward Johnson says he found when he finally saw what his daughter – a 14-year-old freshman at Northwestern Senior High – was assigned to read during the recent holidays. The book was assigned to students in a personal career development class.
"You need to give a child a choice. This book was I feel forced upon a child," Johnson said.
He spoke about his initial reaction when his daughter handed him the book.
"I looked in the book and I said ‘wow.’ So this should not be presented to young ladies nor young men in the high school system,” Johnson said.
The book is written by Sherman Alexie, an author of Native American heritage who has awards from literary groups. And it was banned from a New York City school during the summer.
Johnson said: “I can’t say the words on TV. I can’t print these words. “
The parents said the principal was very open in listening to their concerns.
Santriness Johnson, the student’s mother, said, “I don’t believe the things they have in the book should be told to these kids at this age.”
“You try to find the best positive, if not role models, but the best literature for them to read. Some of the language in here is like gutter, what you would hear from guys talking on the corner or whatever – around strip clubs or whatever, ” Edward Johnson said.
The family’s attorney David Kubiliun said they’re calling on the Miami-Dade school board to notify parents in the future so something similar doesn’t happen.
The school board says the principal worked it out so that the students, whose parents didn’t want them to appear on TV, can now read another book to finish their assignment. The board says this assignment for the other students is over and no other kids will be given this book during this school year. The parents are happy about that and the board says it always wants participation from parents.
Recently, I was the surprise commencement speaker at the promotion ceremony for a Seattle alternative high school. I spoke to sixty students, who’d come from sixteen different districts, and had survived depression, attempted suicide, gang warfare, sexual and physical abuse, absentee parents, poverty, racism, and learning disabilities in order to graduate.
These students had read my young adult novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” and had been inspired by my autobiographical story of a poor reservation Indian boy and his desperate and humorous attempts to find a better life.
I spoke about resilience—about my personal struggles with addiction and mental illness—but it was the student speakers who told the most important stories about survival.
A young woman recalled the terrible moment when indifferent school administrators told her that she couldn’t possibly be a teen mother and finish high school. So they suggested she get a General Education Degree (GED) and move on with her life. But, after taking a practice test, she realized that the GED was far too easy for her, so she transferred to that alternative high school, and is now the mother of a three-year-old and a high school graduate soon to attend college.
After the ceremony, many of the graduates shook my hand, hugged me, took photos with me, and asked me questions about my book and my life. Other students hovered on the edges and eyed me with suspicion and/or shyness.
It was a beautiful and painful ceremony. But it was not unique. I have visited dozens of high schools—rich and poor, private and public, integrated and segregated, absolutely safe and fearfully dangerous—and have heard hundreds of stories that are individually tragic and collectively agonizing.
Almost every day, my mailbox is filled with handwritten letters from students–teens and pre-teens–who have read my YA book and loved it. I have yet to receive a letter from a child somehow debilitated by the domestic violence, drug abuse, racism, poverty, sexuality, and murder contained in my book. To the contrary, kids as young as ten have sent me autobiographical letters written in crayon, complete with drawings inspired by my book, that are just as dark, terrifying, and redemptive as anything I’ve ever read.
And, often, kids have told me that my YA novel is the only book they’ve ever read in its entirety.
So when I read Meghan Cox Gurdon’s complaints about the “depravity” and “hideously distorted portrayals” of contemporary young adult literature, I laughed at her condescension.
Does Ms. Gurdon honestly believe that a sexually explicit YA novel might somehow traumatize a teen mother? Does she believe that a YA novel about murder and rape will somehow shock a teenager whose life has been damaged by murder and rape? Does she believe a dystopian novel will frighten a kid who already lives in hell?
When I think of the poverty-stricken, sexually and physically abused, self-loathing Native American teenager that I was, I can only wish, immodestly, that I’d been given the opportunity to read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Or Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak.” Or Chris Lynch’s “Inexusable.” Or any of the books that Ms. Gurdon believes to be irredeemable. I can’t speak for other writers, but I think I wrote my YA novel as a way of speaking to my younger, irredeemable self.
Of course, all during my childhood, would-be saviors tried to rescue my fellow tribal members. They wanted to rescue me. But, even then, I could only laugh at their platitudes. In those days, the cultural conservatives thought that KISS and Black Sabbath were going to impede my moral development. They wanted to protect me from sex when I had already been raped. They wanted to protect me from evil though a future serial killer had already abused me. They wanted me to profess my love for God without considering that I was the child and grandchild of men and women who’d been sexually and physically abused by generations of clergy.
What was my immature, childish response to those would-be saviors?
“Wow, you are way, way too late.”
And now, as an adult looking back, I wonder why those saviors tried to warn me about the crimes that were already being committed against me.
When some cultural critics fret about the “ever-more-appalling” YA books, they aren’t trying to protect African-American teens forced to walk through metal detectors on their way into school. Or Mexican-American teens enduring the culturally schizophrenic life of being American citizens and the children of illegal immigrants. Or Native American teens growing up on Third World reservations. Or poor white kids trying to survive the meth-hazed trailer parks. They aren’t trying to protect the poor from poverty. Or victims from rapists.
No, they are simply trying to protect their privileged notions of what literature is and should be. They are trying to protect privileged children. Or the seemingly privileged.
Two years ago, I met a young man attending one of the most elite private high schools in the country. He quietly spoke to me of his agony. What kind of pain could a millionaire’s child be suffering? He hadn’t been physically or sexually abused. He hadn’t ever been hungry. He’d never seen one person strike another in anger. He’d never even been to a funeral.
So what was his problem?
“I want to be a writer,” he said. “But my father won’t let me. He wants me to be a soldier. Like he was.”
He was seventeen and destined to join the military. Yes, he was old enough to die and kill for his country. And old enough to experience the infinite horrors of war. But according to Ms. Gurdon, he might be too young to read a YA novel that vividly portrays those very same horrors.
“I don’t want to be like my father,” that young man said. “I want to be myself. Just like in your book.”
I felt powerless in that moment. I could offer that young man nothing but my empathy and the promise of more books about teenagers rescuing themselves from the adults who seek to control and diminish him.
Teenagers read millions of books every year. They read for entertainment and for education. They read because of school assignments and pop culture fads.
And there are millions of teens who read because they are sad and lonely and enraged. They read because they live in an often-terrible world. They read because they believe, despite the callow protestations of certain adults, that books-especially the dark and dangerous ones-will save them.
As a child, I read because books–violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics so, yes, I recognized the domestic terrors faced by Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. But I became the kid chased by werewolves, vampires, and evil clowns in Stephen King’s books. I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life.
And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.
Monday is International Day of Trans Visibility. On that day we’ll be releasing the 2014 Trans 100 (U.S.)
I would like to see anyone and everyone with any kind of connection to media, whether it’s television, radio, print, website, organizational newsletter, or blog to do one simple thing: feature a trans story, with trans people speaking in their own voices.
EXCLUSIVE: After completing its adaptation of the John Green novel The Fault In Our Stars, Fox 2000 has made a deal for the 2008 Green novel Paper Towns…
The experience of making The Fault in Our Stars was really wonderful because of the people involved: They all brought their talent and professionalism to the story and I’m so proud of the movie they made.
It was all so fun and magical (and frankly so different from my previous Hollywood experiences) that to be honest I wasn’t particularly keen to make another movie—unless I could work again with people I really trust.
And now it has happened! I’m really excited that the same team is reuniting to adapt Paper Towns. It will again be written by Weber and Neustadter, and again produced by Wyck Godfrey and Isaac Klausner. We’re working with the same people at the same studio (Erin Siminoff and Elizabeth Gabler at Fox 2000), and the project is being built around Nat Wolff, who plays Isaac in The Fault in Our Stars.
Like any movie project, this will be a longish road with many potential roadblocks, but I know it will be lots of fun and really rewarding to work again with such passionate and talented people.
I have been using the term “sex-positive” for over 25 years–I first heard it when I moved to San Francisco in the 1980s to get my PhD at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. It immediately became part of my vocabulary; I had been doing LGBTQ activist work since the mid-1970s, which included taking about homophobia, and the way “sex-positive” illuminates and helps to address a…
My good friend, Mohini just got engaged! Her fiancé and her are trying to win a contest that will give them their dream wedding, jewelry, and honeymoon! Please vote for them right here! It only takes a second! Help out a couple of college students who are very much in love and deserve a dream wedding!
“There is more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal, picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain.”—Audrey Hepburn (via bedsider)
“I am a Mohawk woman… You cannot ask me to speak as a woman because I cannot speak as just a woman. That is not the voice that I have been given. Gender does not transcend race. The voice that I have been given is the voice of a Mohawk woman and if you must talk about me about women, somewhere along the line you must talk about race.”—Patricia A. Monture-Okanee, “The Violence We Women Do: A First Nations View” (via taleth)
i’ve learned that falling in love is like sugar dissolving in tea. like alchemy.
i’ve learned that i have a heart that’s real hard to break. it’s not impenetrable, i have a heart that’s yielding and accommodating. it stretches to absorb new wounds. it just grows and grows. i have an abundant heart and parts of me are so raw and tender that eye contact with strangers makes me imagine their life stories and my chest will constrict at the oddest things.
i’ve learned that i was the grenade and jesse the lynchpin and falling in love set off this blast that still shakes me, sometimes, with the aftershock of it all. i don’t know how else to explain that, but i’m working on it. all i know is that after i met jesse i was taken aback at this vanguard capacity to feel things so potently that i,
okay, just listen. let me tell you something. i’ve learned that the world will carry on around you, that it will function without you know matter what. i’ve learned that you are ultimately inconsequential to the functions of the universe at large. you are a single leaf falling from a tree, fluttering to the ground where you will lay among many, many other leaves until you are swept away and eventually replaced with more leaves. but i’ve also learned about chaos theory. i’ve learned that you could be the butterfly wings that cause a hurricane a world away. and i have learned, that even if you are a single drop of water in a vast ocean, that your existence is meaningful. and whether you are willing to accept it or not, there are people who care about you so much that losing you would be like blinding them. you will care just as much.
you will burst at the seams, caring that much. you will grow. you will forge bonds into something ancient and arcane. like alchemy.