Friday, January 3, 2020

Last Decade

I know I write about the past often.  I'm still trying to understand who I am, and why, so looking at the past is one way that I do this.  For that reason, I don't often do "year in review" things.  However, this time it's a new decade.  2020 marks the 7th decade in which I've lived.

I was born in 1966.  I only have a few vague memories of the 60s.  I remember watching the moon landing.  I remember falling down the stairs when I was two (I remember the sensation of falling and thinking "whee! I'm flying!) and breaking my arm (I don't remember that part.)

I remember the 70s.  I remember a dream from when I was three: a huge blob of living lava burned through a barn (this barn really existed, and had a huge hole in the one side, so...) Also in that dream there were a parade of brachiosauruses on the horizon, moving left to right.  Most of my childhood was the 70s.  However, it was also the decade of Star Wars, which changed my life as it did so many others.  

I began the 80s in junior high school.  I ended them as a college graduate.  In most ways that count, the 80s is when I "grew up."  Burned all my girl clothes because "men don't play dress up."  I fell into deep depression, from which I still haven't recovered.  Until recently, it was the decade of greatest change in my life.

In the 90s, I met and married my Wife.  I moved to Baltimore to work for Games Workshop.  Bought my first (and only) house.

00s... A decade of Hell.  We moved back to Pa to live with Wife's mother (MIL.)  My drinking was out of control.  Earned Masters degree.  I was angry at everything, especially myself.  I wrote a book, hoping to figure out why.  Daughter was born in 07.  Then my True self reemerged in 08 after 25 years of suppression.  Oh, and I started this blog on Myspace.

At the dawn of 2010, I was a VERY closeted cross dresser who was very confused and depressed.



I didn't know how deeply my femme self went, and I fought it as hard as I could.  In 2012, I finally stopped lying to my wife three and a half years after my "re-emergence" and told her all about Sophie

Also in 2012, I met a person who would affect my life profoundly: Lisa Empanada.  She was a friend and mentor, but more- she understood the Darkness in my soul, as she had it as well.

August 2012.  I was arrested for drunk driving.  I finally got help for my drinking.  I paid the price for my stupidity.

In December 2012, I decided, with Wife's consent, to start HRT.  I wasn't sure about transitioning, but heard that a low dose of estrogen helped with dysphoria.  It did.

Events escalated quickly.  I began getting more freelance work as an Instructional designer, so I was able to start paying off debts.  I also worked part time at Penn State Great Valley.  Then, in late summer of 2013,  MIL discovered I was transgender, and gave me 48 hours to move out.  Wife told me she was not coming with me, which crushed me.  I moved out on August 30, 2013. 


With Lisa at SCC

A week after I travelled to the Southern Comfort Conference (SCC), where I was "pinned in" as a sister of Vanity Club.  While there, I met someone who I didn't know would be a central figure of my life: Linda Lewis.  Lisa arrived the last day of the conference, which surprised me.  I didn't realize that this would be the last time we would ever speak. 

My birthday was September 13.  Four days later, on September 17, 2013, I was told that Lisa died of suicide.  After being thrown out, other issues, then her death, I tail-spinned into the Darkness.  I really don't know how I survived that month, and the next few. 

In late December 2013, Linda Lewis arrived from Michigan on her way to Florida.  Things fell apart while she was staying at the house where a dear friend graciously let me stay, and she stayed in Pa. 

March 2014.  I finally started living my Truth.  Lost 90% of my friends, and Instructional design calls stopped.

June 2014.  Linda and I found an apartment together, soon to be joined by Zoey, without whom we would've been homeless. 

June 2015, Linda and I moved to Phoenixville (Zoey previously moved back to Iowa) where I was closer to Wife and daughter. 


Cast of Dracula, 2019

November 2016.  The election puts a maniac in charge of our country.  Hate crimes against minorities, including transgender people, rise dramatically.  The end of the American experiment is a real possibility.

February 2017.  I made my stage debut as Sophie in the Vagina Monologues.  Sold out show. 

February 2018.  I lost my book store job after 14 years.  I was unemployed, except for odd jobs and Lyft, for over a year.  I felt absolutely worthless.

May 2018.  I travelled to the UK to reconnect with family and myself. 

January 2019.  I played a Maid in a local production of Dracula.  Sold out run. 

June 2019.  I played the courtesan Tintinabula in a local production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  It will be my last play for a long time, as I have no time while studying.

August 2019: Linda and I moved to Penn State so I could begin my PhD studies in Adult and Continuing Education, after being accepted in March.


Linda and I in State College, 2019

Now it's January 2020.  I'm in my apartment in State College.  The new semester starts in a week.  How would I summarize the last decade?

Pain. 

Worst decade of my life. 

So many losses.  So much Pain.  Combined with deaths, and the uncertainty of who I really was, the Darkness was (and still is) still waiting to claim me as it did Lisa.  I am far from the same person who started the decade- in fact it was a whole different life.  Seems so distant, but it wasn't that long ago.   I started the decade as a "guy" in deep Pain, 

At the dawn of a New Decade, I feel useful.  I finished my first semester of doctoral study with a 3.97.  I work as a graduate assistant for the University.  Linda is also working.  I've made some new friends, and I'm mentoring an undergraduate transgender woman (still taking her earliest steps,) but for the most part keep to myself.  The colossal amount of homework precludes a social life. 

I'm living now as I have been for the past several years: day by day.  I don't make plans.  I do what I need to do.  People come and go.  Now in State College, I'll fade from more people's lives.  That's the way of things.


Cast of Forum

I still have no Hope.  45 is still in the White House, and it seems like weekly I lose more rights simply because I was born transgender.  Money is still a struggle, so surgeries are out of the question. 

Yet, I'm doing something here that may help others.  If I can help one transgender person have an easier time in transitioning, and/or survive, then this will all be worth it.  Nice to have purpose again.

So, this new decade brings so many challenges.  May it bring all of you happiness.

Be well.








Thursday, January 2, 2020

Men of the Skull Chapter 59: Last Great Phi Psi

Yes, I'm skipping a chapter.  The chapter I'm skipping is about two of the brothers being arrested, and, as there's no way to really scrub their identities in this chapter, as a courtesy to them, I'm not posting it.

Also, it's just not a good chapter.

in any case,...



****************************************************************************


Chapter 59: The Last Great Phi Psi 500

Saturday, April 4, 1987 Papal Mass is marred by violence

            How does a tradition die?
            Is it because people don’t care anymore?
            Once upon a time, there was a tradition at Penn State called the Phi Psi 500.  Actually, it was and still is the national philanthropy for Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, but at PSU it was HUGE!  It was the perfect college philanthropy- all the money went to charity.  Imagine this: a running race around State College.  Simple enough.  But in this race, everyone has to go to six bars and chug a beer in each before going on with the race.  Whoever thought of this was a fucking genius!  The money got raised by canning, the fees, t-shirt sales, raffles, and the drinks purchased during the race.  Figure over a thousand racers paying fifty cents a drink per drink, times six, and that’s a decent chunk of change right there! 
Collegian, April 6, 1987

            How could it get any better?  Well, add a second part of the race for the non-runners.  Make it a costume contest with prizes so that you’ll have college students with their twisted beer-fueled imaginations coming up with insane ideas. 
            As can be imagined, this event was huge.  There were always events for which all the alumni would try like hell to return.  Fall had Homecoming.  Summer had Arts Fest.  Spring had the Phi Psi.  The hotels would be booked solid for miles around.  The bars and restaurants were packed.  It was a bonanza for all the downtown merchants- just like another football weekend.  During the race, people would line the streets cheering.  Some people were openly drinking, but the cops ignored it as long as the drinkers remembered the most important rule: “don’t be an asshole.”
            Phi Psi- with all of this in its favor, how could such a tradition die?  Like this- the school administration announced that they wanted the Phi Psi 500 to be “dry.”  Phi Psi caved in, like they had a fucking choice.  So starting in 1988, a program of phasing out beer from the Phi Psi 500 would begin. 
            Of course students and alumni were pissed off, but what could they do?  Even though all the racers had to be twenty one and have their IDs pinned to their shirts, the police could still clamp down for “public drunkenness” or whatever.  And, of course, the university could pull Phi Psi’s charter. 
            Welcome to Reagan’s America.  Or more precisely, Bryce Jordan’s Penn State.
            Phi Psi tried to minimize the damage.  The Collegian interviewed the guy running it, Todd Dagen, and he said “We want to continue the race in years to come if people will just participate without the alcohol.”1
            Right.  Whatever.
Skull was on tap, of course.  We kept the keg in the coatroom to the left of the foyer (where we had the house payphone.)  We had blue opaque plastic cups- because if the cops couldn’t tell it was beer, they didn’t have probable cause to come onto the property.  Skull had been doing this for years- we were pros.  We also put up a temporary fence along the edges of the lawn to keep people off of it.  No one was gonna tear up our lawn but us!  See, we were right on the race route.  The bar across the street, The Brewery, was one of the six.  This meant that our lawn was prime real estate for watching the festivities.  We had pledges at the bottom of the stairs with a guest list and a couple of pledges on the side porch to keep people out. 


            Of course, we invited a sorority over every year.  That way, not only not only did the girls get to party with Skull, but they also had an awesome place to watch the race go by,  Of course, the sorority was always grateful.  Very grateful.
            So here it was- the day that everyone hoped wouldn’t be but kinda knew would be the last great Phi Psi 500.  The alumni returned and everyone was excited. 
            And it rained.  Hard.  It was like God had decided to fill Happy Valley all the way to the top with water instead of beer.  The race went on- rain or shine.  Did that dampen the enthusiasm?  Hell no!  We Are Penn State!  And this was one of the best parties of the year!  We weren’t about to let a little (or a lot) of water stop us from having a good time! 
            The streets were lined with people in raincoats or with umbrellas or just getting soaked.  Virginia and I headed over to the Bone.  People tended to stay inside until they had a few, then they didn’t care if they were wet or not.  Some of the Chi Os were carried outside laughing and screaming.  Eventually almost everyone was outside: soaked and happy. 
            So Virginia and I drank and watched as the “real racers” went sprinting down the hill to the Brewery.  And the old folks (35 and older.)  And the sorority relay.  By the time the “anything goes” group came through, were already fairly bombed and talking about stupid shit.  As usual, the brothers pretty much ignored me, so it was mostly just the two of us.  Occasionally one of the pledges came over to talk to me, but not often. 
            We watched as a group of runners went by in slow motion: the “Chariots of Fire” group. 
            You know, even with unlimited beer and entertainment, a party isn’t that much fun if no one socializes with you.  I was bored.  The Greatest Party Day- and I was bored.  Had another beer and decided to leave.  Virginia and I walked past some brothers rolling around in the grass with mud covered laughing sorority girls.
            Took some time to worm through the crowd on Beaver Ave and get back to the apartment.  Outside in the rain, people dressed like keg worshipping Hare Krishnas, leisure suited disco rejects and California raisins paraded, drank, danced and puked in the streets.
            Virginia and I showered and fucked ourselves silly.
            There would never be another Phi Psi like this one.


1.  Esper, Patty, “Phi Psi faces less alcohol, possible snow” Daily Collegian, April 3, 1987


Next Chapter

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

597 Paper on Transgender Violence

I wrote this paper for one of my classes this semester.  It was worth 40% of my grade in that class.  The class' purpose was to examine the literature, issues, and perspectives of transgender people of color.  It was the hardest class of my graduate career.  The instructor wanted it to be "less formal than academic" and to use the "style of your discipline" (which for me is APA.) 


Old Main, PSU, a few weeks ago

Still, it isn't the easiest read.  It's still an academic paper, after all.  However its topic is Violence against transgender people.  So here it is, warts and all, exactly as I submitted it.

Oh, It got an A-. 


************************************************************************






Seminar paper: Trans of Color Critique
Sophie Kandler
Pennsylvania State University
WMST 597










Introduction
“There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that anti-Trans sentiments are pervasive in Western culture.” (Hill, D. B., & Willoughby, B. L., 2005, p. 531.)  My area of research analyzes cisgender (cis) and transgender relations, specifically why do cis men hate transgender women to the point where the men murder them.   According to research, the perpetrators are always male.  (Jauk, 2013, p.815.)(Stoltzer, 2009, p.176.)  I will approach this from an Adult Education perspective, as I believe that education is the only way that transgender (Trans) people can overcome the waves of hate and violence arrayed against them.  I narrowed the scope of my research to transfeminine people to make the study more manageable.
This paper will examine physical and sexual violence on transgender people. Verbal harassment is so common that many transgender people don’t even consider it as violence. (Dauk, 2013, p. 812.) so for brevity’s sake, I won’t explore it.  (I encounter verbal harassment almost every day when I am in public.)  It will also examine self-violence by transgender people: suicide.  I will then show how one can lead to the other.  I selected these articles from the literature due to what they contained, but read them not just for content, but also examining the content for whiteness and intersectionality.  I want to make sure my work does not use whiteness as a baseline, and that Trans of color are fairly represented.
I write this paper from my perspective as a Caucasian transgender woman of European heritage.  I acknowledge that while I endure the struggles that almost all Trans people face in the United States, my struggles pale in comparison to those who face the intersectionality of racism, transphobia, and necropolitics.  I write this paper as part of my search to understand the total Trans experience, not just what I and those I know encounter.  As this paper is part of my search, I will include some anecdotes and thoughts from my journey. 
Physical Violence
            Trans people are frequently victims of violence, “because of their gender non-conformity.”  (Stotzer, 2009, p. 170.)  Violence takes many forms, but Stotzer (2009) wrote that verbal harassment, physical violence (including murder), and sexual violence are the most common.  (p.171.)   “Numerous studies have demonstrated that transgender people experience high levels of violence from strangers and known others alike, and that they often face a lifetime of repeated victimization.”  (Stotzer, 2009, p.171.)  None of this is news to Trans people, as we live it.  We always check our surrounding to make sure we are safe, and, among the group of Trans people I know, especially in Philadelphia, we never go anywhere alone at night. 
I searched for sources of statistics of transgender violence.  I found many different sources, and while their actual numbers may vary, they all agree that Trans people experience higher rates of violence than cis people. (Dinno, 2017, p. 1441.) I read many papers on the topic, yet only one separated reports by race.  All others lumped all Trans people together for statistical purposes.  That one report, Dinno (2017.), found that:
“Transfeminine residents aged 15 to 34 years who were Black or Latina were almost certainly more likely to be murdered than were their cisfeminine comparators. Indeed, as Table 1 shows, a large majority of transgender homicide risk is borne by young Black and Latina transfeminine individuals. Because the rate of cismasculine murders among Black and Latino US residents aged 15 to 34 years is so high, the possibility that transfeminine Black or Latina residents aged 15 to 34 years have even higher rates of being murdered is alarming." (p. 1446.)
Table 1 (Dinno, 2017, p. 1442.)
Stotzer (2009) mentioned Trans of color in his statistics of the typical Trans murder victim. 
“They found that most [murder] victims were people of color (91%), most victims were poor and lived in major cities, most were biologically male but had some variant of a feminine presentation (92%), few murders received media coverage, all the assailants were male and used extreme levels of violence, and most of the murders were not investigated as hate crimes (71%), and most assailants go free. Only 46% had been solved, compared to 69% of other murders (Wilchins & Taylor, 2006).” (p.176.)
That’s a lot to unpack.  I tried to find the report she cited, but was unsuccessful.  The statistics note that 91% people of color and that only 46% of the murders are solved.  Is there a correlation between race and cases not being solved?  I searched, and found an article about Chester, PA. Maxon, J., Wright, K., & Rios, E. (2015) wrote “while Chester has one of the nation’s highest homicide rates, it has a far lower than average “clearance rate.” Not even one-third of last year’s 30 homicides have been solved, a rate less than half the national average.” (p.1.)  The rate that murder victims of color have their killers caught is below the national average according to several studies. (Taylor, T. J., Holleran, D., & Topalli, V.,2009, p. 561.)( Riedel, M., 2008, p. 1145.)( Petersen, N., 2017, p. 372.) 
The intersectionality of race and transgender means that those who murder transgender people have a good chance of never being arrested for the crime.  As necropolitics asserts, their deaths serve as statistics and nothing more.  However, many crimes are never reported as being crimes against transgender people.  Stotzer (2009) wrote transgender people are rarely mentioned as victims because there is no place to list gender identity on a standard police form. (p. 176.) 
I have the police report concerning the suicide of one of my dearest friends, who, while transfeminine, died in male clothing.  The police report has no space for gender identity, even if her gender identity was known to the police on the scene. (Price, J., 2013, p.1.)  Her autopsy report also didn’t mention that she was transgender, despite the toxicology report noting estrogen in the bloodstream.  Also the autopsy also noted that her toenails were painted pink and that she had “previously augmented breasts.” (State of Maryland, 2013, p.1.) (This was in error and was later amended, as they were a natural result of the estrogen, not surgery.)  Her life ended tragically, and the authorities didn’t have the capability of noting her transgender status, even after her widow informed them.  
In addition to the issues with police reporting being unwilling to officially recognize transgender crime victims, one of the problems of studying transgender violence is that it often goes unreported.  At the many transgender conferences I’ve attended, one of the topics often discussed informally is the need to “police ourselves” because of the perception that calling the police will lead to further discrimination.  Many of my friends reported that the police discriminated against them in several ways.  The research confirms this problem.  Stotzer (2017) wrote that 7.7% of Trans people surveys were unjustly arrested, 37% of the perpetrators of verbal abuse were police, 14% of physical assaults were by law enforcement personnel, (p. 176.) and that 4.9% of sexual assaults were by police. (p. 173.)  I couldn’t find statistics that separated those reports by race. 
Trans people in the US experience discrimination from the police, but nothing compared to Latin American countries, where 80% of Trans women experienced gender-based violence.  (Lanham, M., Ridgeway, K., Dayton, R., Castillo, B. M., Brennan, C., Davis, D. A.,& Cooke, J., 2019, p. 37.)  I wondered if that number correlated with the experiences of Trans of Color here in the US, but I found no research either way.
With issues like those it’s not surprising that Trans people don’t trust the police.  Most Trans people know we have to protect ourselves for that reason.  Getting a dog and buying a gun are the two most common strategies. (Jauk, 2013, p.818.)  Not everyone can afford those though.  I carry pepper spray and an assortment of knives when I’m out in public (but not on campus.)  A self-defense course for women recommended that I make sure my bag has heavy items in it so that it may also be swung as a weapon, and I have done that.  I also have martial arts training.  Due to hyper masculinization prior to transition, many transfeminine people have military experience as well.  In my circles, I don’t know any transwomen who aren’t armed in some way while out in public.  Despite all of that, am I still afraid?  Sometimes.  56% of transgender people report feeling in public, and 43% reported that they felt uncomfortable in public as well.  (Stotzer, 2017, p.174.)  Again, I found no statistical breakout by race for those numbers.
More academics began studying the violence endured by Trans people after the turn of the 21st century.  Hill and Willoughby developed a Genderism and Transphobia Scale (GTS). (Hill & Willoughby, 2005, p. 540.)  They say that three key constructs can be used to conceptualize hate against trans persons: transphobia, genderism, and gender-bashing.” (p. 533.)  Hill and Willoughby (2005) provide the following definition of these terms. 
“Transphobia is an emotional disgust toward individuals who do not conform to society’s gender expectations…. Genderism is an ideology that reinforces the negative evaluation of gender non-conformity or an incongruence between sex and gender… Finally, gender-bashing refers to the assault and/or harassment of persons who do not conform to gender norms (Wilchins,1997). Thus, genderism is the broad negative cultural ideology, transphobia is the emotional disgust and fear, and gender-bashing is the fear manifest in acts of violence (Hill, 2002).” (pp. 533-4.)
Their terms make sense, and the GTS is quite thorough: it has 32 different indicators.  Nagoshi, J. L., Adams, K. A., Terrell, H. K., Hill, E. D., Brzuzy, S., & Nagoshi, C. T. (2008) developed a different scale with only nine. (p.521.)
The Nagoshim et al.(2008) scale was developed on a college campus, and they made interesting assertions.  They said that even college environments aren’t free from LGBT hate (Nagoshim et al., 2008, p.522.)  Their scale concentrated on the nine issues that Kate Bornstein considered important, citing her 2004 book Gender Outlaw as well as her 2008 work My Gender Workbook.  Another important set of findings were that lower education, right wing beliefs, and religious fundamentalism tended to discriminate more against LGB in general and Trans in particular.  (Nagoshim et al., 2008, p.524.)  Another important note: in developing their scale, Nagoshim et al. had a very low incidence of non-white respondents. 
All of these methods and charts help predict violence against transgender people, but don’t address one of the most important factors: socioeconomic status.  Jauk (2013) quoted Mara Keisling (NCTE) when she wrote “Low social class exacerbates the problem of trans violence because transgender individuals with more resources can choose to live in safer neighborhoods and can afford facial surgeries for enhanced visual conformity.” (p. 818.)  As with many things in life, those who have the money have an easier way through life.  For transfeminine people, facial surgery can be the difference between being targeted for violence or not. 
Sexual Violence
Trans people also suffer a high rate of sexual violence.  Stotzer (2009) notes that sexual violence is the most documented form of violence against Trans people.  She also wrote that “perpetrators are motivated by hatred or negative attitudes toward transgender people.” (p.172.)  Jauk (2013) states that 64% of Trans people report being sexually assaulted.  I am one of them, as is my roommate.  Neither of us reported these assaults to the police, for the reason listed in the discussion about law enforcement above. 
Jauk (2013) also wrote that “Transgender women face disadvantage because they choose to be feminine in a world in which women and men devalue femininity.” (p. 816.)  Julia Serano (2012) coined the term Trans-misogyny, writing “Trans-misogyny is steeped in the assumption that femaleness and femininity are inferior to, and exist primarily for the benefit of, maleness and masculinity.” (p.1.)  Of note, Serano’s book Whipping Girl, from which the cited essay was developed, has been criticized for its whiteness.  With men feeling negatively about cis women and feeling hatred toward Trans women, that high rate of sexual assault isn’t surprising. 
In my case, people assume that since I’m trans, I’m there for their amusement.  The first time I was sexually assaulted was 2009 in a Philadelphia gay bar.  I was talking to two self-identified gay men about Star Trek when one of them suddenly grabbed my breasts with both hands.  As this occurred before I started HRT, I was wearing breast forms, so I felt nothing.  I was stunned and didn’t react immediately.  Fortunately, the bouncer saw what happened and violently ejected both men.  Through the years, I’ve had several incidences of men grabbing my breasts to “see if they’re real.”  This must from their belief that they can do whatever they please because I’m Trans, and that makes me less than human. 
I understand where they learn this.  I grew up in the 1960s and 70s.  In my very small town, all the boys were taught that they were superior to women in every way, and that women were “only good for two things, and one is raising kids.”  Since I started doing Transgender focused talks at colleges and businesses in 2014, I’ve mentioned this, and asked if that’s still how boys are raised.  Unfortunately, I’ve heard many times that this is still the case.  I know that for myself and many trans women I’ve spoken with, this led to internalized transphobia, which made “coming out” to ourselves even harder.  The intersectionality of seeing women as less than human as well as thinking transgender people are not human makes a powerful combination for hate.  I found no research adding the intersectionality of race to this except for a piece covered in class: Eli´as Cosenza Krell’s Is Transmisogyny Killing Trans Women of Color? Black Trans Feminisms and the Exigencies of White Femininity (2017.). 
Self-violence
What effect do the high levels of violence have on Trans people?  According to research, it leads to self-harm.  I found many studies making that connection.  I’ve had my own issues with suicidal ideation, including attempts.  For that reason, I approached this section with some apprehension.
Testa, R. J., Michaels, M. S., Bliss, W., Rogers, M. L., Balsam, K. F., & Joiner, T. (2017) wrote that:
Research on suicidality among transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people has revealed alarmingly high rates of suicidal ideation (SI) and suicide attempts, with 45%–77% of study respondents reporting a history of SI… and 28%–52% reporting a history of one or more suicide attempts… strikingly higher than the estimated lifetime prevalence of SI and suicide attempts in the general population of 13.5% and 4.6%, respectively” (p. 125.)
Testa studied the subject for many years with different combinations of researchers, and published several papers on the subject.  (Testa, R. J., Sciacca, L. M., Wang, F., Hendricks, M. L., Goldblum, P., Bradford, J., & Bongar, B., 2012, p. 452.) One of the theories he discusses in depth is Joiner’s IPTS model.    The IPTS model has three parts: “thwarted belongingness… perceived burdensomeness… and the acquired capability for self-harm.”  (Testa, et al., 2017, p. 127.)  I encountered this model in a Newsweek magazine article back in 2013 while researching a piece I was writing.  Thwarted belongingness is a feeling of being alone.  Perceived burdensomeness is a combination of self-hatred and feeling like a burden on others.  These two are linked.  The third factor is a lack of fear toward dying.  That third factor is the ‘wild card’ in that it is the difference between SI and a suicide attempt.  (Testa, et al., 2017, p. 127.) 
Using my pen name, I wrote about Joiner’s theory in a piece about the dear friend’s suicide I mentioned earlier.  I’m convinced that Joiner is correct.
“I previously mentioned Joiner's theory on Suicide.  And it fit Lisa to a T.  I have had those three things a few times in my life.  And survived.  Right now, I strongly feel two of them. But there is one that is NOT there. I Know I am not alone. That knowledge keeps me from calling out to my Sister "Hey Lisa! Wait up!  Let's explore the Light together!" and following her away.” (Lynne, 2013, n.p.)
Testa and colleagues developed a Trans-centric model which they called the Gender Minority Stress and Resilience (GMSR) model, which is adaptation of Meyer’s Minority Stress Model. (Testa, R. J., Habarth, J., Peta, J., Balsam, K., & Bockting, W., 2015, p.65.)
(Testa, et al., 2015, p. 67.) 
Distal stress factors are external to the person, while Proximal stress factors are internal.  The distal factors lead to the proximal factors, which can lead to SI.  However, there are the resilience factors: Community and Pride.  In the model, these can counteract the negative stress factors.  Being connected to the Trans community and having pride in their identity are crucial to surviving the negative experiences that affect Trans people daily. (Testa, et al., 2015, pp. 66-7.) 
The Community aspect of the model relates back to Meyer’s model.  This is significant.
“Meyer pointed out that not all of the effects of minority stress are negative. Members of minority groups typically develop coping and resilience in response to prejudice and other insults. In particular, by coalescing around a minority identity, minority members avail themselves of “important resources such as group solidarity and cohesiveness that protect minority members from the adverse mental health effects of minority stress” (p. 677). One way that minority members accomplish this is by creating a within-group identity against which they may then compare themselves, rather than using those whose prejudice they face as their comparison group. In this process, minority members begin to “evaluate themselves in comparison with others who are like them rather than with members of the dominant culture” (p. 677). This reappraisal allows members access to validation that might not otherwise be available to them. As a group, minority members create a positive view of themselves that effectively counteracts stigma.” (Hendricks, M. L., & Testa, R. J., 2012, p. 462.)
This applies to all minority groups, including Trans and Trans of color.  I know in my case, the Trans community is who kept me alive when I was at the greatest risk of suicide.  I began not caring about what society at large thought; I just wanted to be a positive force in my community.  I stopped comparing my appearance to cisgender women, as I could never compete with them.  Applying my experience as transgender, I hope that the Trans of color community, who face worse violence than me, find strength within their shared community. 
Testa and colleagues mentioned the racial composition of their study group in each piece, and in each piece, they are overwhelmingly white.  I wonder if they used more Trans of Color if the results would be different.  While the model seems universal, the higher prevalence of violence against Trans of Color may change some of the variables they used. 
Testa et al (2017) then compared the GMSR and IPTS models to possibly integrate those factors to explain SI in Trans people.  (Testa, et al., 2017, p. 125.)  For this, their study had 816 respondents, 86% of whom were white.  They made an effort toward representation.  “In addition, specific e-mails and postings were distributed recruiting “Trans People of Color” on applicable listervs, social media sites, and through professional networks of study collaborators.” (Testa, et al., 2017, p. 128.)   
(Testa, et al., 2017, p. 129.)
When integrated, the model looked quite different.  The major absence I noticed was the lack of positive mitigating factors from the GMSR model.  I assume that these are accounted for by the IPTS model’s third factor: lack of fear toward dying, which while also not represented on the integrated model, is the mitigating factor in that model.
(Testa, et al., 2017, p. 129.)
However, their research also found “Although no significant differences were found in current SI based on race or living environment, SI did vary based on age, socioeconomic status, and gender identity.” (Testa, et al., 2017, p. 133.)
Conclusion
            In researching Trans related violence; I hoped that whiteness wouldn’t be as prevalent as it was.  The research showed that Transpeople of Color experienced far higher incidences of violence than white Trans people, yet all the research used white as the baseline.  Burnes, T. R., Dexter, M. M., Richmond, K., Singh, A. A., & Cherrington, A. (2016) listed multiple possible stress factors.
“For individuals who engage in both social and medical transition at various points throughout the life span, there may be multiple, intersecting traumatic experiences that can serve as stressors. Such stressors include childhood sexual and physical abuse …familial neglect and social rejection… discrimination in health care, educational, and employment settings…barriers in legal policies…housing discrimination…and high rates of hate crimes…” (p.75.)
They mention all of those intersecting factors, but neglect racism, the intersectionality of which is a major factor in the lives of Trans of color.  This reinforces the concept of necropolitics, which before this class I’d never encountered.
The extraction of value from Trans of color lives through biopolitical and necropolitics technologies not only serves the sovereign, but also indexes much more subtle and complex shifts in power.  Trans rights activists' participation in and complicity with this process is what compels us to make this intervention. (Riley, S. C., Jin, H., Aren, A., & Susan, S., 2013, p. 71.)
            The researchers I cited in this paper have the best of intentions.  They’re documenting violence in Trans lives, and applying that data to search for solutions to the problems Trans people face.  However, by using whiteness as their standard community, they ignore the people who suffer a far greater proportion of the violence: Trans of color.  Ignoring Trans of Color reinforces that they are more valuable as statistics to bolster agendas, as well as to generate outrage which only helps the white Trans community.
            Reflecting on this class in general, and the research I completed for the papers assigned, I’ve had to re-evaluate my own thoughts and prejudices.  I examined my white privilege more deeply than I ever have.  
I knew that Trans of Color were disproportionately murdered, and I’d read that was probably because more Trans of Color had to resort to sex work to survive due to the intersectionality of transphobia, misogyny, and racism.  Sex work put them in harm’s way, thus contributing to the higher murder rate.  It was a vicious cycle, which I would combat by trying to break the transphobia portion by activism and education.  Yay me. Yes, in my ignorance, I was buying into the whole “white savior” trope, even if I didn’t realize it.
That’s the difference: now I realize it.  I see the whiteness in the research, and understand the necropolitics involved in the lives and deaths of Transpeople in general, and Trans of color in particular.  However, seeing whiteness and understanding necropolitics isn’t enough.  I will be conducting my own research, and using what’s left of my life to work toward Trans rights.  I must apply the knowledge I’ve gained of these concepts to ensure that my research truly represents all Trans people, and that I remember that all these numbers and statistics represent the lives of people like me, some of whom have a much worse situation than mine. 
One person will not end transphobia, racism, or hate in general.  It’s a process.  Just as those Trans people who came before me made my journey possible, so my work should make the journeys of those Trans people after me easier.  Only by keeping in mind what I’ve learned can I ensure my life and work have an effect on more than people like me. 
It’s a dream I have. 



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Monday, December 16, 2019

A Family History of War

My Uncle John (Mum's older brother) called from Scotland tonight- past midnight his time.  He wanted to wish me a Merry Christmas, and said he preferred calls to cards.  So, I put aside the paper I'm writing for class, and listened.



Among other things, he told me a story about my family I'd never heard.  His mother: my maternal grandmother, came from a large family: four brothers, four sisters, and she was the youngest.

At the outbreak of World War One (1914), all four brothers signed up for the army, a couple of them lying about their age to get accepted.  My great grandfather (GGF) also enlisted, saying he was much younger than he really was.  The recruiter thought that they were all brothers, and so they all went into the army.  (Probably in the same regiment as was the British custom of the time.  I don't know which regiment.)

GGF became a drill instructor, so he never went to France, but all four brothers went.  All four made it home as well, but "Not all in one bit."  All were wounded in some way.

"Uncle Walter" lost a leg going over the top when his kilt caught in the wire and he fell face first, his legs in the air.  The Germans shot one off.  Another brother was on a listening post one hot summer night.  This meant he was forward of the lines, and he had to be very still and quiet, lest he be spotted and shot by a sniper.  (I filled in some of my own knowledge here- Uncle John just said he was “ahead of the lines keeping a watch.”)  If the Germans attacked, he was to send up a warning (a flare or something.)  In any case, he had a "sweet" in the chest pocket of his uniform, and as the night went on, he really wanted it.


Scottish Uniforms of World War 1

So, very slowly, he moved his hand toward the pocket.  He reached the pocket, opened it... and a sniper shot his fingers off.  (He said that this was at a place he pronounced "Kee-kinola."  I don't know where that is, as I'm sure the spelling is far different from the pronunciation.)  

Another brother also lost his fingers, but I wasn't told how.  I don't know how the fourth brother was wounded.  

In any case, his point was this- Uncle Walter, who lost a leg, used to tell him that "our family is blessed."  After all, the whole family came home from that war when 134,712 Scottish men and women didn't.   And that was the moral of the story.  My Uncle is 81 and has a lot of health problems, but he still considers himself blessed as he's had a long life.  

We were on the phone for 45 minutes, him doing most of the talking and me listening.  He is quite a story teller, and I enjoyed listening to his stories.  

Sometimes, it's best to just listen, especially when someone who has lived a long time wants to tell some stories of days long before mine.  

Be well.

UPDATE:  The family lived in Ayr, so that's where the brothers enlisted.  The surname, as expected was Macintosh.