August 17, 2017

Letter to my representative on H.R. 2796

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:16 am by chavisory

This is my letter, going in the mail tomorrow, to my congressional representative regarding H.R. 2796, the Civil Rights Uniformity Act of 2017, which you can view here.

Dear Representative Espaillat,

I’m writing to ask you to vote against, and take any action possible against, H.R. 2796, deceptively titled the Civil Rights Uniformity Act of 2017.

From what I understand, this bill was written specifically with the intent of excluding transgender people from protection under existing civil rights law.

While I am not transgender, this represents quite literally a matter of life and liberty for trans people I know and love–a matter of access to employment, housing, and public life.

Furthermore, in this bill’s reliance on a poor understanding of the science of sex and gender–biological sex is extremely complex, and most individuals do not know or have any documentation of their “genetic sex”–it represents a potential invasion of privacy and serious access barrier to anyone at all who fails to conform to simplistic and repressive ideals of what a man or a woman should look like.

I thank you for your time and thoughtfulness on this issue.

Advertisements

September 26, 2014

Signal-boosting post!

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:32 pm by chavisory

There are so, so many issues and projects and new art and fundraising campaigns out there right now that deserve time and attention and money, and I could almost write a post per day every day to get to all of them.  If I could I would just give the money to every project I like that needs it, but for the present moment I’ll have to settle for calling your attention to a few of my favorites:

1.  The deadline is coming up for submissions to Typed Words, Loud Voices!  This will be an anthology of writing by people who are non-speaking either some of the time or all of the time, who type to communicate.  The editors are Amy Sequenzia and Ibby Grace, two of my favorite advocates and bloggers.  Project description and submission guidelines are here!

2.  The Autism Women’s Network is planning an anthology on autism and race, and we have less than two days left in our fundraising campaign, with almost 50% of our goal to go!  This book is so important because the vast majority of discussion and visibility of autism centers on white autistic men, while autistic people of color suffer from an immense lack of recognition and understanding.

Project information and fundraiser are here.  If you are interested in submitting writing, guidelines are here.

3.  The WordPlay Shakespeare series, which I’ve been working on for about two years now with the New Book Press, has just released its third edition, Romeo & Juliet!  These are Shakespeare’s plays in dual text and video e-book format, and include both the full text and video of its performance by really stellar Broadway and Off-Broadway actors on every page, along with note-taking and study tools.

Almost every person, and teachers especially, who we show samples to, says that they wish they’d had these when they learned Shakespeare in high school.  I’m immensely proud of them, Romeo & Juliet is probably the play I’ve had the most fun working on so far as we’ve refined our understanding and process for this hybridized film/theater/new media format of production, and is available on iTunes and iBooks now.

4.  On Monday night, we had the CD release party and concert for the cast recording of Tamar of the River, a fantastically distinctive new musical that I stage managed last fall, the second original cast recording to be released for a show of mine.  If you have an interest in unique vocal music or storytelling technique, this is a piece you’ll probably love, and proceeds benefit Seeds of Peace, an organization that brings together young people from regions of seemingly intractable conflicts to work towards peaceful solutions.

5.  Out of Order is still fundraising!  This is a documentary about the journeys of LGBTQ candidates for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA), amidst evolving attitudes in the church about what it means to be both queer and a Christian.  I was excited for this to be out, like, yesterday, and the team (all of whom are working pro-bono out of belief in the importance of this film) is in a fundraising push to finish editing and post-production.

Please take a look at any or all of these that may be relevant to your interests. : )

March 11, 2014

“Exile and Sound,” at NeuroQueer

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 5:48 pm by chavisory

I have a guest post up this week at NeuroQueer:

I’ve been realizing how much I need and miss the influence of natural sound in my life.  It’s like the cadences of those things are the language that my emotional concept of the universe was wired in.  I need it in a way so deep I don’t even know where to begin or how to describe.
It’s strange to think of being starved for sound in New York City, but it can feel that way.  The city is so abundant in every other variety of overstimulation imaginable, but incredibly poor in that one, although there’s plenty of noise.  It’s not the same thing.

spring robin

Visit to read the whole thing!

June 26, 2013

Posted in Marginalization tagged , , , at 5:56 pm by chavisory

It’s my birthday today.  I’m 31.  Yikes.

And I had just finished breakfast this morning, in the kitchen of a friend I’m visiting, when we got the news, just after 10:00 AM, of the Supreme Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, and shortly thereafter, Proposition 8.

I remember being a teenager, sitting at my own kitchen table, at breakfast time, in the house where I grew up, reading the news about DOMA’s passage.  I wasn’t all that attentive to what went on in politics or the world at that time, I didn’t know things I do now about my own identity, and I didn’t think I knew any gay, trans, or queer people.  I still believed some things about sexuality and morality then that I don’t anymore and am not particularly proud of to look back on.

But I remember reading about it in the morning paper and being so sad.  Something about it just profoundly didn’t sit right with me.  I couldn’t think of another instance within my own lifetime in which a law had been passed for the deliberate and express purpose of depriving a specific group of people of rights or protections.  And based on very little except the perception by the majority that they were simply the wrong kind of people, or willfully deviant–a burden which I had always felt, though for different and at the time unnameable reasons.

And no matter what I felt about homosexuality, I couldn’t believe that that was right.

It was part of a long pattern, that I identified with the wrong people in the given narrative.

I honestly didn’t think it would be so soon–though of course it’s been more than long enough for a lot of people who have suffered under the consequences of this law–that I’d get to look back on that day with a bittersweet happiness.

The world does change when people persistently stand up for what is right.  We are capable of making the world kinder and fairer.

Remind people of this day, tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, when they tell you any version of the lie that we can’t make the world safer by standing up for each other, or that it’s better to just keep your head down, fit in, and not speak up for justice or piss off anyone in authority, because the world never changes.  It’s people with a vested interest in the world never changing who keep telling that lie.

(Edit:  I hit publish on this, and then realized that I hadn’t come up with a title, but when I went back to edit one in, I thought that the date was kind of title enough.  DOMA:  1996-2013.  RIP.)

April 7, 2013

Out of Order new trailer!

Posted in Marginalization tagged , , , , at 1:40 am by chavisory

Really happy to see an update from the Out of Order team this week.  Seeing this film get made is a wish very dear to me.  It will come as no surprise to anyone, probably, that I treasure stories of people being told that they’re not supposed to exist, and then doing it anyway.

And also because I’ve had people who are not allies to the cause of equality tell me that they’re really and truly trying to understand the position of people who consider themselves both faithful Christians, and avowedly queer.  Being able to point them to this film would be a great place to start, but it has to get made first.

Earlier this year I shared the first trailer for this documentary project.  I know that everything and everyone is asking for your time or money for something, and I know that queer Presbyterian aspiring clergy might seem an obscure or marginally important topic for a documentary, but the filmmakers have this to say:

This important film is about people making a stand for what they believe in. It’s not merely about Christians or gay and transgender people. It’s about wider humanity and doing what’s right, despite institutions telling you you’re wrong, broken and don’t belong.

I know that’s something that probably a majority of my followers can identify with in some way.

They have an IndieGoGo campaign.  They’re just over halfway to their funding goal, and have four days left in the campaign.  Pledge levels start at only $5!

December 9, 2012

Out of Order

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 2:13 pm by chavisory

I’m very excitedly looking forward to the release of this documentary:

From the project website:

Most gay and transgender people know what it feels like to be told they are broken and to be rejected, and often this message comes from Christians. Out of Order is a feature length documentary following the journey of three queer members of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

With unprecedented access, this groundbreaking documentary joins a group of queer future ministers at a secret retreat in the South. The critical decisions they make there will forever alter the course of their lives.

October 29, 2012

What makes you think you’re safe?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:11 pm by chavisory

Playwright Doug Wright posted a Facebook status the other day that went:

I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Romney because of his economic policies (tenuous and ill-formed as they are), and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, ‘My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit an ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country, your healthcare, your right to inherit, the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and your very personhood.’ It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you ‘disagree’ with your candidate on these issues.

I had been thinking along those very same lines myself, with regards to the alarming pattern of statements minimizing rape and its consequences, and advocating depriving women of the option of legal abortion even in cases of rape and abuse, on the part of Republican candidates lately.

That frankly, every time I hear someone defend their Republican votes, despite that party’s deplorable stances on women’s and LGBT rights (among a host of other issues), saying “I only vote on economic issues,” what I hear is, “Your rights as a citizen and presumed equality as a human being with control over your own life and body are disposable to me, and here is exactly the amount of the tax break or economic advantage for which I would sell them.  Your worth and dignity, your rights to medical care and privacy, are for sale to the highest bidder as far as I’m concerned.”

But rationally, I know that it’s not exactly a fair accusation, because people are neither that simple nor that consistent nor that self-reflective, and really, really talented at double-think.

That people are, in fact, somehow capable of seeing absolutely no conflict between believing that they love and respect their wives, daughters, sisters, and their gay, lesbian or transgender children, friends, and coworkers–and voting for candidates whose policies directly threaten our well-being and civil rights.

I don’t understand this, but I know that it’s true.

My more vexing question for these voters is, “What on God’s green earth makes you feel safe at the hands of these people?”

Because let me tell you something:  They are not only threatening me.  They are not only threatening women, gay people, trans people, religious minorities, poor people, illegal immigrants, various demographic groups whose voting patterns they don’t like, and the societal resources that make all of our lives richer and more stable.

They are threatening you.  And they are telling you that they are.  And you keep voting for them.

How many times have we heard children who didn’t want to be bullies, but who witnessed their “friends” or ring-leaders bullying others and did nothing, talk about why they didn’t?  Because they were afraid that their “friends” would turn the ugliness on them if they stepped out of line.  And indeed, many teenage bullying victims report that this is exactly what happened.  That they were part of the clique, part of the in-group, one of the right people, until they weren’t.

When someone will do something horrible to other people, ostensibly for your sake, what they are telling you is not that they so vehemently have your best interests in mind.  What they are telling you is not that they will go to whatever practical lengths necessary, however hard-hearted they seem, to uphold the beliefs you both share.

What they are telling you is that they will do horrible things to other people.  They are telling you exactly who they are and how they treat people.

And if they will do terrible things to other people for your approval, then know exactly what they will do to you when they decide they need someone else’s approval.

I used to listen to Dr. Laura.  I was young and thought I was a conservative.  But, as a broken clock is still right twice a day, I think she said about two things that are utterly true and brilliant, and one of them was:

If they will do it with you, they will do it to you.

And when these guys talk about what they think or what they want to take away from the poor, jobless, disabled, and marginalized…and you think that doesn’t apply to you?  Ask yourself just how confident you are that you will never be one of the poor, jobless, disabled or marginalized.  (And before you decide, recall that a lot of people who thought they’d done everything right were pretty confident of this before 2008.)

This is one of those things that I grew up instinctively understanding, and am mystified by people who don’t, who I guess have just never been in a situation in which you had to know this.  I have always had to know this.

When someone threatens any vulnerable person or group of people, they are threatening me.  They are coming for me next.  They are broadcasting that this is what they do to the wrong kind of people.  (In my heart, I’ve always been one of the wrong kind of people.)  It doesn’t matter that it’s not you right now.  It’s going to be whoever they need it to be.

They’re telling you what they will do to people.  They’re telling you, on the basis of their authoritarian religious beliefs, and with no economic reasoning whatsoever, what they want to be able to do to us.

They are threatening to take away access to health care.

They are threatening to take away our rights to control over our own bodies, and to privacy of our reproductive and medical decisions.

They are threatening to invalidate marriages and families.  They are threatening to take away from children the securities intrinsic to having legally married parents.  They are threatening to turn back the clock on the progression of equal rights under the law no matter the sex of the person you love.

Even if you don’t give a damn that this is being done to women and gays, try looking out for yourself and your own self-determination for a minute.

They consider themselves uniquely justified in imposing their religious beliefs on other people’s lives.  Why do you imagine you’ll be exempt?

Why do you think you’ll be safe?

Do you seriously think that they’re just morally bankrupt enough to do this to me and the people I care about, but not to you and the people you care about?

Think again.

September 9, 2012

Let’s talk about sex (education)

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 1:21 am by chavisory

So apparently school started again this past week, and (in)appropriately, I ran across this article on Salon.com (Americans Want Sex Ed), summarizing a report from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.  The report presents the seemingly paradoxical findings that while a solid majority of both adults and teens in the United States believe that teenagers should be taught about birth control, and also that anti-abortion leaders should support the availability of birth control, and also that they (teens) themselves have the information they need to avoid unplanned pregnancy…a somewhat scarily large percentage of teens then go on to report knowing little to nothing of contraception methods.

But I suspect that the discrepancy obscures, at least in part, a disconnect between the fairly binary way in which we conceive of what “sex education” can and should be–either abstinence only or abstinence plus safety and contraception–and the nuances of students’ real lives, or how well what students are taught about contraception does or doesn’t match up with how they really need or want to be educated about sexual relationships.

If, for instance, you’re a 15-year-old lesbian, it may be true that you know what you need to about contraception at the moment even if that isn’t very much.  Or if you’ve genuinely decided to wait for sex–till marriage or just till you’re older–you might not be wrong that you don’t need to know everything about possible contraception methods right this minute.  Or if you’re on the asexuality spectrum and not seeking a sexual relationship…this information might not be taking up space on your hard drive, but you know where to find it if or when you want it…or if, like some students taking this survey, you’re 12 years old.

Or imagine how profoundly unhelpful a group role-playing game full of scare tactics about the dangers of promiscuity is to someone desperately trying to figure out how to have one good, safe, physical relationship.

It’s also easy to mistakenly think you know everything it’s possible to know, when what you don’t know is what you aren’t being taught.

I was, probably unsurprisingly, one of the kids who thought that I knew what I needed to know.  I’d been through fairly decent classes on what to expect from puberty.  I’d been given information on available contraception.  (In a totally brilliant move on my mother’s part, one day she had picked me up Seventeen magazine’s Environment Special Issue, which she said she thought I’d enjoy, environmental activism being my primary obsession at the time.  It also had Your Complete Guide to Contraception in the back of the issue.  It was years before I realized that handing that over had probably been deliberate and not an oversight on her part.)  I was a biology wonk and already knew more about disease transmission and risk than what was in the health class videos and graphic slide shows.

And, for reasons that turned out to be a good deal more complicated than I even thought they were at the time, I’d taken a stance that I was delaying sex…pretty much indefinitely.

In this state of affairs, I wound up, despite my protestations that the requirement was insulting, in my school’s “Health and Family Wellness” class.  In which I somehow managed to be continuously stigmatized for the very choices that the class purported to be encouraging, because the ways in which I’d made them did not comport with the core presumptions of What Teenagers Are Like or How Dating Works.  At the same time that I did indeed think I knew what I needed to, as far as what I saw available, I felt this gaping absence of anyone anywhere accurately describing how I actually experienced myself or my desires, and how to build a life or be safe and respected in those things.

Now I look back and know that I cannot have been the only one experiencing this, because people who were not represented as having sexual or romantic relationships worth talking about included gay people, queer people, trans people, disabled people…so also disabled queer people…any kind of gender fluid or gender variant people, people on the asexuality spectrum, or now that I try to think of it, very many people of color or of cultures other than Normal American Teenager.  Let alone any of those people having relationships with each other.

What worked for other people was clearly not going to work out for me, but there were no examples of what would.  Or of how to talk about what was true for you, if that wasn’t what was presumed to be the default.

There’s a quote from Adrienne Rich that I think of more and more often:  “When someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing.”

So…not getting pregnant was actually not my biggest problem.  The ways in which our school’s sex ed didn’t have much to offer me went way deeper than “I already know all about contraception, this is a waste of my time, and I’d rather be taking art.”  But that was all I was able to express—in no small part because of the poverty of education or language available about relationships, sex, and gender that went beyond the very superficial.  And so I sat in class day after day, feeling more and more alienated from my peers and from how adults presumed I should be treated based on the fact that I was 15 and not much else, being told by unqualified teachers “I’m sorry you think you’re too good to be here,” rolling my eyes at badly produced educational videos, and learning most of what I really knew about love and respect from Mulder and Scully at home alone on Friday nights.  (And I’m not the only person I know who says that I learned what love was supposed to be from those characters.)

How would I have answered a survey question “Do you feel that you have all the information you need to prevent an unplanned pregnancy at this time?”  Yes.  But it would’ve been a stand-in answer for the fact that the question didn’t address anything real in my life.

I can well imagine that if you go to a school in which the name of your sexual identity is literally a bad word (“Don’t say gay” bills have been introduced in both Missouri and Tennessee), or a subject that faculty feel forbidden to address, up to and including when you’re being violently victimized for it, that you might reasonably feel that your ability to name risks and benefits of five different kinds of contraception is a little bit beside the point.

It isn’t that we shouldn’t teach comprehensive information about birth control, obviously, or work to ascertain whether kids feel they have the information they need about it, but I think in the common conception of what sex education is, this is widely thought of as the ultimate question: whether to teach abstinence only, or whether to teach risk management methods.  But even the seemingly right answer to that question is misleading and even counterproductive when contraception as risk management is taught without a bedrock of positive and healthy attitudes about sex, real-life examples of all types of healthy sexual and romantic relationships, a vocabulary to describe what’s true and desirable for yourself individually, and knowledge and respect for your own sexual identity and those different from you.

Without that kind of knowledge, which should be basic and not controversial, I suspect it may be hard for students to draw easy conclusions about whether the health information they have matches up to the realities of their lives.

August 17, 2012

Nothing’s wrong with a boy in a dress; what’s wrong with the rest of us?

Posted in Cool kids, Marginalization, Uncategorized tagged , , at 5:53 pm by chavisory

What’s so bad about a boy who wants to wear a dress? (New York Times Magazine, 8/12/12)

The answer, of course, is that there’s nothing bad at all about a boy who wants to wear a dress…but what I’d like to know is why this is the question.

The article is well worth reading, and I’m thankful for these parents who make a decision to accept their sons as they are and to not force them to suppress their gender expression, and to get them support in their schools and neighborhoods.  I know it does take courage to do it in the face of a lot of misunderstanding and pressure to the contrary.  They make me hopeful and thrilled for their kids.

But it just shouldn’t need to be considered a revolutionary act to stand up for your kids.

I’m impatient despite my relief that these people exist, and will probably keep growing in numbers, with an article written mostly by and for people who are only just now learning to face up to the things that people like their kids have always had to.  And that this is an eight-page article in the Times, not because we’re suddenly aware of the existence of gender-variant people, but because a certain number of otherwise mainstream parents have decided to accept it in their children.  Not even completely and unconditionally, but to one degree or another.  Not that gender fluidity has always been a normal part of the fabric of human identity and yet that these kids have almost always lived under a terrible burden of abuse and repression (and probably still do more often than not).  But that a relative handful of parents are willing to stand up to a cruel and unjust culture to prevent abuse of their children for being who they are.  To say that maybe conformity is not the highest possible goal, to recognize that it might be easier for them but not actually the best thing for their child.

Lots of people have fluid or androgynous gender expression, and young children can be far more self-knowing than we give them credit for.  The question I wish a writer for a major, mainstream news publication would address is “what the hell is wrong with a society that would treat the most vulnerable of children the way that we currently do?”  How is it that ostracism, bullying, ridicule, forced suppression, employment discrimination, and violence are considered the normal responses to deviations from it, and acceptance is considered the curiosity?

July 24, 2012

Not exactly news: I know brave and wonderful people

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 2:06 am by chavisory

Two things:

1. A little over 12 years ago now, I was about to graduate from high school.  And my church’s brand new pastor, Brian, thought it would be awesome if, for a spiritual rite of passage or something, me and the other graduating seniors–my childhood friends Jess and Nicole–had to plan an entire Sunday worship service and give the sermon.  And I’ve never been reticent about saying “hells to the no” to things that I really, seriously don’t want to do…but I’d been in acting class that year past, and so this idea was not as petrifying to me as it might have been only a short time previously.  In fact, I’d been half-wondering whether I felt a calling to the clergy myself, and so I thought this might actually be a good, challenging experiment.  And so I said okay.

I wrote my sermon on how trusting in God often means being open to unexpected possibilities, including unexpected discoveries about ourselves.  I remember sitting outside on the front steps of the church on a warm spring evening for a planning meeting, Brian approving of our sermon outlines and hymn selections, joking about what more humorous though inappropriate choices might have been.  It wouldn’t be so bad.  There was an order of worship; I knew how it went.  I only had to actually speak for five to seven minutes, from prepared text; I’d done scenes longer than that.  Jess and Nicky had to do it, too.  If I could act, I could do this.  And it would tell me something about myself.

And I did, and it was actually pretty awesome; even though I was fairly sure I wasn’t meant for the ministry, I wasn’t sure at all that I wasn’t destined for some kind of life in performance.

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my father when he asked whether I’d gotten Brian’s resignation letter in the mail.

WHAT?!?! I said.  No, I had not.  What was going on, what happened?!

But the news was good.  Brian was leaving to become the executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, a national organization working to encourage better welcoming and inclusion of LGBT people in the church.  And he’d been in a committed relationship with his partner, Troy, for the past nine years.

Given my own past couple of years, I know what it takes to decide that being open about who you really are, whatever the fallout may be, is just worth it.  I don’t think I ever imagined that one day I’d get to be so proud of someone who I already liked and respected a lot and who had been a gentle and encouraging influence in choosing to do something immensely difficult all that time ago.  I’m fairly sure I cackled for joy when I got off the phone.

******

2. This has already made the rounds of Facebook, and now it’s up on BoingBoing: earlier this week, my high school friend Chris returned his Eagle Scout medal in protest of the Boy Scouts of America’s recent decision to continue the organization’s ban of gay, bisexual or transgender scouts and leaders, joining a growing number of men who have done so.

I’ve always had a visceral dislike of the Boy Scouts on multiple levels, but the Eagle Scout award is the culmination of years of incredibly hard work, of which men who achieve it are rightfully proud.  I didn’t realize until today that only 2.1 million scouts have earned Eagle Scout status…since 1911.  So it’s, to say the least, not a trivial decision to give up the award, in order to uphold what it’s supposed to teach.

“Gay scouts and leaders have the right and obligation to be true to themselves. Homosexuality is not a moral deviance, bigotry is,” Chris wrote.

Maggie Koerth-Baker’s article and Chris Baker’s and several other men’s entire letters are here.

******

I think I agree with a friend who said this week that I clearly have good taste in friends. ; )

Next page