10.15.2009

Green or Yellow mucus?



…is what my modern ‘medicine woman’ asked me over Facebook.


I'd just returned from a trip to NY where I fell ill. My mom, concerned about my lingering cold, wanted to send me to a doctor straight away. There’s just one complication…
I've been ineligible to receive benefits from my mom’s employer provided health insurance coverage since February 18, 2008 – the day I turned 23.
I explained that it was “mostly yellow and clear.” And she replied “Green means infection virus contagious, yellow is a cold, and clear is either allergies or jus and imbalance of some sort - mostly your system doing what it needs to cleanse. Get lots of sleep and clear hot fluids. Stay away from dairy it increases mucus!”

She sent over B-complex, and D vitamins, along with some Triphala - to help clean the colon. She says when you get sick, the bug gets stuck in your colon - and subsequently in your blood which contributes to what helps keeps us sick for longer.I spent the weekend close to home drinking tea, having soup, taking my vitamins and lots of water. By Monday I was still a little bit congested, but I've been feeling a whole lot better and eating more thoughtfully since -- doing a little bit more physical activity (basketball on Tuesday nights after my internship), and trying to consume LOTS of water.

As for not having health insurance because I'm 24 -- it’s an inconvenience for sure, especially for someone who, until recently, didn’t know what it meant to live without coverage. Still, I count my blessings. In this economy, I'm lucky to even have a job, much less one that could also offer me some kind of health insurance. But to be honest, for better or for worse, the loss of the safety net has forced me to think about my "health care" differently. I have had to learn to stop acting as I am in some way defenseless against my own body. And I am beginning to realize that my well being is predicated on more than having a defense alone.

"Health Care" Reform vs. "Health Insurance" Reform




"70% of Health Costs Generated By Preventable Chronic Diseases"
(H/T James Hodges)
While largely billed as a Health Care Reform program, what our President and our nation's pundits have been clamoring about is really health insurance reform. It is important that we recognize the difference. This isn't a bill that is going to magically revamp all health care services, but it will begin to put the reins on the people who play middle[wo]men between health care providers and us, the would-be patients.
This bill has been attached to big ticket issues like our economy and job stimulation because at the root of it all our health care system is a business - with real profits and real losses. And under the existing system, insurance companies have a great deal of control on how that business operates (or doesn't) to serve the needs of patients. For example, while this video explains the benefits of health insurance - pay-in and the pool levels costs, I have to agree with Nick Lee:
"When you have companies that are making $37.8 billion dollars in “total revenue” and there are still millions of people going without health insurance because they can’t afford it then there’s seriously something wrong."

In short, this is about money, not people, and would explain why much of what we hear in policy disputes seem externalized - focused on who gives care, how health care is financed, and how to enable more people to access financing. There's no doubt, the system is broken, but it has been so for a little while now.

Who Knew?!


Until recently, people who've never been without access have been none the wiser. Growing up I had the luxury of being able to get up and go see a doctor whenever my mother felt it was necessary. The inability to do so now was certainly an odd change of pace, but being sick, while at home, forced me to actually consider my lack of access, and what that means.

8.27.2009

On NPR: "Tell Me More [About BUTCH Voices]"



I'm so long overdue for a blog... But I've got a good excuse ;)

So many things have been going on at the same time this summer. I've been ramping up efforts to promote my social networking site for masculine identified women and transmen, The Definition, while juggling work responsibilities, promoting amazing movies like Pariah and a bunch of other things as they come. In the midst of it all, I've been trying to make sure to juggle all of that in addition to my responsibilities as the Logistics Chair for the first ever BUTCH Voices Conference.

Someone at NPR got wind of our conference and reached out Tuesday to schedule an interview. And as has been the case throughout this journey, Conference Chair Joe LeBlanc and I connected with them remotely, (as Joe is now back in his hometown of Tacoma, I'm here in the Bay, and our host was presumably calling out of Washington, DC) to talk about the experience and to give a little more insight on why we committed ourselves to this work.

"Tell Me More":A Conference for Butches


Thursday August 27, 2009

Ft. Joe LeBlanc & Krys "bLaKtivist" Freeman














I'm still processing it all, searching for the right words to express what this process has meant to me. I can say that working on this conference has been quite the lesson, but all of the work we did seems to have been well worth it, given the overwhelming response we've gotten from the attendees. Coming away from the experience, I can say that I have worked on this with of some of the most amazing people I've encountered to date (some of them are pictured above - from left to right Mary Stockton, Wolf Painter, Q. Ragsdale & Joe LeBlanc). For first timers, I think we did well!

Would love to hear your comments, questions or thoughts about the interview!

6.11.2009

I am a "PARIAH": Through Film Dee Rees Tells My Story, Our Stories



As the lights went up, more the year ago, I sat in the balcony of the Egyptian theatre, with Kai - my twin, sobbing uncontrollably and only marginally concerned with who might be watching. For any of you who know me very well, that's not normal. I'd sooner hide my face behind a soaked cotton t-shirt than let anyone see me publicly cry. But I was at an the OUTFEST Los Angeles screening of "Pariah," a film, by Dee Rees. Even as a short, it hit so close to home it brought me back to some of the most diffcult portions of my teenage years.

I went to OUTFEST particularly to see this film. And nearly 2 years later just watching this trailer makes me well up from the memories. The story of this young woman is almost parallel to my OWN - not just a young woman, but a young queer/les bLaK woman struggling to get a stranglehold on a sense of self, that even now I have to sometimes fight myself to muster. And it awakens some of that deep seated hurt that have yet to fully heal, because we still live in a world where our civil liberties are up for popular vote. And where I struggle almost daily to put together the right words to plead a case so logically sound that I can't be rebutted by uncritical and unthoughtful analysis, often taken as common sense truth.

I'm not asking you to vote for this piece if you don't find it compelling, but I'm almost certain that something about it IS. On its own merits, the production is phenomenal, the writing is realistic and the scenario is ALL too familiar to me and many of you.

But I want to ask you consider giving this piece the 2 mins worth of viewing.




If you like it give it 5 stars.

If you think this is a story worth being told, PLEASE repost this note, tag anyone you think might be touched by it.

If not on facebook on your blog, on craigslist, downelink, myspace, any and everywhere.

Below you can find a thoughtful message I was forwarded, that the filmmaker wrote to a professor seeking support as well.

-Krys

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My name is Dee Rees, and I’m a 2008 Sundance Directing lab fellow. I’m writing/directing a coming-of-age film about a black, lesbian teenager called PARIAH. PARIAH seeks to personalize the struggles of gay/lesbian youth of color in such a way that evokes empathy, opens doors to communication, and promotes dialogue within families. The short film of the same title screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and has won numerous festival awards both domestically and abroad.

I’m reaching out to you because PARIAH is a semi-finalist in the Netflix FIND Your Voice Competition, but it’s a very close race and I could really use your organization’s support in order to raise awareness for the project. PARIAH is the only African-American, gay project in the running and we really need voices across all communities to show the film industry that we want to see this story and more stories like this represented onscreen.

We were hoping that you could please support us by announcing the news in your Women’s/Gender Studies departmental communications; forwarding this message to your student listserv; and by encouraging your peers to visit www.netflixfindyourvoice.com to vote for our trailer .

Only the top 5 projects in this round move on, and we’re currently in 6th place and hanging on by a thread... Our goal is to get 10,000 stars, so any support you could lend us in getting this out to the broader academic community would be amazing.

Please find below a link to the film’s website where you can learn more about myself and the project’s history.

Thanks so much for your support— I believe that this film is a very important story that needs to be told and would be extremely grateful for any help you could lend!


Warmest,

Dee
Writer/Director “PARIAH”
www.pariahthemovie.com

323/544-1499

3.29.2009

The Little Transmasculine Identity, THAT COULD



This post is my response to a group of folks I was working with on a conference. We got into a heated email discussion about the target audience, which for some should be exclusive to female born, woman identified, masculine persons only; rather than all those who fit under a transmaculine umbrella.

Once again I find myself disappointed by the way uncritical analysis rears it's ugly head in tough situations. And more encouraged to make my effort to affirm no only trans identities, but also to advocate for the space for us to critically assess how how we essentialize ALL identities, and perhaps do so along the very binary we wish to escape. THIS IS NOT PROGRESSIVE.

My email begins here:

-----------------------------
Note: Since writing this many more have replied, but I spent my commute addressing this because I feel like I needed to clarify a few things).

Cristy,
Thank you much for your thoughts here. I believe we are in agreement on several things as well:

- "male is sex, man is gender"

- "many queer communities have shunned and shamed the woman-identified butches-by forcing male pronouns on us [...] by questioning our masculinity because we still like our female bodies and don't want to change them

- "female masculinity is far more transgressive in our culture than [m]any other variet[ies] of masculinity"

Where possible I try to avoid quantifying oppression, as it leads nowhere fast. So I have to disagree w/ this statement more generally: "I don't think transmasculine or FTM identities are as marginalized as woman-identified butches." - even if I perhaps sort of agree w/ the premise of it within the confines of the particular group you later specify.

Masculine women that we are, while marginalized by society, we exist in a place of privilege when it comes to transmen- in that we still identify with our female born bodies. And though suffering from discrimination, we still can counter charges of "wanting to be men" (because of how we are perceived) with "No, I'm very clear & comfortable with my masculine woman self." FTMS do not have that same ability.

I don't think it fair or considerate to disregard what is their understanding of themselves, even as womanists/feminists - even if we can see places where it may not be what we think it should. Because while we may affirm our womanhood and equal right to many things afforded men, that is not in a vacuum. Womanism/feminism shouldn't be a blind lobby for women but a critical one.

Further, I believe it is through those critical perspectives womanism/feminism (I am a womanist) that we might be able to liberate transmasculine identities (stud, butch, ag, ftm, dom, daddi, top etc), transgender, transsexual and other identities from the snaky claws of essentialism that proliferate. This is perhaps especially important if we want to combat the shaming and pronoun forcing you mention.

So in saying that, I too know what you mean about being shamed for embracing what has become a somehow "inauthentic" version of stud-ness or boi-ishness, and in some trans affirming spaces for being "she" instead of "he." That is very real and need be addressed.

But I don't think that precludes us from being able to think, process or exist outside or beyond how others may self identify or devalue how we identify. That's their issue, not yours or mine.

We also may differ in how we use transmasculine. For me it is not interchangeable with FTM or transman. It is instead an umbrella term for all masculine identified people. Perhaps I should consider panmasculine, but I only do this because I grow tired of:

1. Feeling somewhat left out because I am not fond of terms like butch or aggressive that carry on connotations that, while meant to describe my appearance, poorly encapsulate my person.

And 2. Feeling like I have to write a list of names to describe the ppl I mean while not wanting to make them feel the same way that I do as mentioned above.

It goes farther in terms of wanting dialogue around "transgender" to broaden because if "male is sex," most people misunderstand the differences between transgender and transsexual. But thats a larger conversation.

When it comes to gender, Joe and I are of the same mind that gender can be anything you make it. Sex is mush less varied, you are born male, female or intersex.

So perhaps we also disagree there too Cristy, but I do so respectfully and in hopes that we might through this exchange develop a better understanding of one another. I have no investment in antagonism with anyone.

Going forward I hope that the same enthusiasm btwn the few of us on this email thread will transfer into the energy to help Joe get this thing going.

Wishing Ya'll The Best,

Krys

-----------------------------

Needless to say, more emails have been exchanged, and none of them really address the questions I raise, except ofcourse from the person who is spearheading the event.

Just more of the same
"This is my opinion."
As if your opinion meant you were absolved of critique?

"There are conferences for trans people."
So WHAT?! Let us not forget that conferences like these exist to help build community sometimes where it seems NON exists.

"This is a space for us."
Who is us, and why is it important to continue on a trajectory of drawing needless lines in the sand, when we can evolve instead?

I feel like we have to know ourselves to grow, and I only think there are opportunities for learning and growth that come from looking at masculine identity acroos a WIDE spectrum.

Here are a few CHOICE quotes:
"By tacking on all of these various male identities you are erasing female and woman-identified butches. I am completely fed up with female and woman butch identities being minimized"

"If they don't like or get it.......it's not my problem. I don't want inclusive language for every spectrum of the masculine/male. I want inclusive language for every spectrum that is of female/woman. "

"I thought this was about butch female/woman identity. We are a dying breed. I thought this Conference was about showing those coming up about other ways to be butch than on a scale of male pronuns, chopping tits, growing a beard and muscles due to hormone replacement."

As if it werent' enough that many in the hetero-normative world didn't already stigmatize trans as well as gay or lesbian people, here we are stigmatizing each other. My heart HURTS.

2.23.2009

HIV: We're Not Taking it Lying Down



The "HIV: We're Not Taking it Lying Down" campaign has a multi-layered message which speaks to the strength and empowerment of women, while recognizing the realities of women's lives including trauma, stigma and injustice. It gives voice to women's impatience with public complacency regarding the impact of HIV on women of color.

Visit the folks at GMHC to learn more.

2.10.2009

Biking from Regime Bush to Regime Change



There are some days you just wake up and the sunshine dares you to have a unpleasant disposition. I think Inauguration day was like that for me. The energy was different. It was as if all the nation were rejoicing together, celebrating the inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama. Everything felt full of potential, and everybody appeared to be a vehicle for Obama's message of "change" - some more than others.

"[I]t was spooky to see so many people gathered" explains my friend Ryan Bowen of Biking For Obama, who was among the droves of folks who despite feeling the squeeze of our shrinking job market and struggling economy, made their way, by hook or crook (or crank), to witness the event first hand - some by car, some bus, some by train. Ryan got on a a bicycle. "I'm like...its a takeover, of hope!" he wrote, reflecting on his first hand experience.

I can only imagine what it was like to be in our nation's capital on that day. Especially for Ryan, after having embarked on a 48 day nearly 4000 mile cycling tour from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in order to attend this historic event. I haven't been back there in years, but even here in California January 20th was a heartwarming day - perhaps especially for folks Ryan myself and many of our mutual friends, who share Occidental College with our new President.

Catching up with him a few days after the inauguration via email Ryan wrote "I've always said Obama represents potential. Across the USA I met people who are all hurt by this economy (save Texas, where it hasn't hit so hard). Everyone was optimistic." This coming from someone who's own bid for Occidental College Student Body President in 2007, partly while he studied abroad in the Dominican Republic, could be seen as representation of potential. When Ryan told me he'd be bicycling to D.C. I was excited for him, not just because it would be an amazing feat, but because I immediately began drawing parallels between this man I'd grown to love at Occidental, and this President onto whom so many expectations have been placed. But even in that joy, I felt a tinge of concern, that Ryan's efforts might be reduced to him traveling to see Obama for somewhat superficial reasons - because he's black or because he's bi-racial. Based on what I know of Ryan, those correlations are true, and meaningful in their own right, but I know that this trip was largely due in part because he was deeply inspired by Obama's message and transformative leadership model.

For all of the arm twisting it takes to get most North Americans to talk about what our race issues are, it is a little bit ironic how much emphasis has been and will be placed on President Obama's "blackness." I remember getting a little peeved when I read in the paper on inauguration day about the millenials and the black people who flocked to Washington, D.C. Not because it wasn't important, and not because it shouldn't have been noted. I was bothered instead because there was so much done to keep this campaign out of the tricky entanglements that emerge when we talk about race, especially when we talk about "blackness."

But then there was the explosion - Jesse Jackson crying, the MLK Jr. allusions, the seemingly omnipresent sigh of relief - Yes, we did, elect a black man. We can only really talk about it when we are noting something presumed of worth, our firsts, and our breakthroughs, without ever really talking about the obstacles that belabor those events, or the obstacles that delay these successes. Never before has the race of a U.S. President been so often remarked upon, never before has it seemed pertinent. It speaks to the nature of what we are taught about race, "black," "white" and otherwise. The "white" identities of Presidents past have never been novel, they weren't "white" Presidents, they were Presidents. They had that luxury, that privilege if you will.

But I'm OK with President Obama not having that kind of privilege, even if he has others. He will be, and is, an imperfect President. But he is changing the tide of how we even see ourselves in the United States even if only by virtue of the symbolism in his blackness - and he knows it. The President was quoted a week before the inauguration saying, " There is an entire generation that will grow up taking for granted that the highest office in the land is filled by an African American." He added "I mean, that's a radical thing. It changes how black children look at themselves. It also changes how white children look at black children. And I wouldn't underestimate the force of that." Neither would I Mr. President, neither would I.

When I asked Ryan about how he ended up running, he explained that he initially had no interest in running. "I never believed that formal leadership could effect change, I guess... I was just - not interested. Maybe even because I had never seen someone like myself holding those positions of power. So I doubted if it was even for me." But then he took it on as a challenge when another student asked him, in jest, why he wasn't running - and he couldn't come up with a legitimate reason. And then he won.

I think in the same way that Ryan's preparation for the trip reminded me of some of the Obama campaign, I think Ryan's journey could be metaphor for the road to come for our esteemed President. For example, when he sought advice on the best way to make his trek across the nation, Ryan was met with nay-sayers, saying some of the same things they said to President Obama. They told Ryan he was too inexperienced to ride across the country, and even FOX newscasters that interviewed him jived him on his choice to take a longer route in order to avoid extreme weather. I wonder what they think now. Ryan and his team documented the trip on his website, BikingForObama.com. And his efforts earned him an inauguration ticket, and one for the other six BFO team members who rode and helped document the journey, from Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Ryan's hometown of Portland, Oregon upon their arrival at the Jefferson Memorial on January 18th, 2 days ahead of the inauguration. Blumenauer rode with the critical mass of riders in support of BFO, who caravanned to the Jefferson Memorial.


As for our President, already the forecasts from some pockets are dismal - already so many are holding their breaths for Obama's imminent failure, and what some believe will believe to be his inability to deliver what he campaigned on, CHANGE. And while the road ahead is unequivocally steep, I think at least some of that pessimism comes from those who still believe he is incapable of serving simply because he is black. Still, they seem marginal in the face of a larger group of us, who empathize with the mountain of troubles Obama accepted when he took that fumbly oath of office. For me it was the final puzzle piece in a nationwide grassroots effort to see our government, literally and figuratively, take on a new "face." None of us know what lies ahead, but if we can handle eight years of a president, with whom I share a high school as well, I think we can give President Obama a fair shot. And there has definitely been a shift, even if our pockets aren't feeling any better. At least our conception power, privilege are changed, even if only symbolically now that our President is "bLaK."

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