A note about The Deviated Norm

This here is a low traffic blog on topics close to my heart. As such, comments and engagement on old posts are always welcome and will be responded to. Except! for comments on old posts telling me to lighten up, not take things so seriously, or let things go, 'cause that shit's just plain ironic. Those comments will get a suggestion to visit Derailing for Dummies.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Not Perfect: More Tim Minchin

I've been listening to/searching out Tim's stuff now since Tuesday, and so far I've found multiple things I really like, and nothing that I dislike. And here's the problem: all the good stuff, it's really really good. So good that I would like to learn to play it/sing it. (I guess that isn't a problem). But (here comes the problem), I can't. I mean, I'm not a 31 year old married Australian. Other awesome artists with moving love songs and the like have the decency to make it either really specfiic, but clearly as "story", or super universal. Not Tim, oh no, Tim wants to make it all about him, him, him. Selfish bastard, I want to make it all about ME, ME, ME. But now I can't. So you'll just have to listen to "Not Perfect" by Tim Minchin as played by him instead of as played by me because he's a selfish jerk.

as always, as complete a transcript as I can make

There are just so many things to love about this song:
Every time I hear him sing about the "force created by the spin" of earth, it makes me wonder yet again at how crazily lucky it is that life even exists, let alone you and me*.
When he sings about Australia, you can tell that he really cares about his country and wants to see it get better, and seeing that reflected in his lyrics about the "locks to keep the baddies out" that are "mostly used to lock ourselves in" is just wonderful as well.
I think anyone who's grown up in our body-shaming culture can relate to the body verse, and at least for this person with depression: I really felt connected with the pressing need to try to protect people from myself.

Hmmm, maybe with a good U.S. related re-write of the country bit I could perform this myself. It might just be worth it.

*which has been helped along considerably by the fact that I am currently reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins wherein he talks briefly about all the exact little things that went into creating this planet that is suitable for carbon based life, of which there are a considerable number, (and that doesn't mean I think this was "designed" for us. As, uh, (thanks yingyang)someone whose name I can't remember Douglas Adams said, that'd be like a puddle looking at it's place in the world and saying "wow, I sure fit in this here puddle quite nicely, it must mean that it was MADE for me", which I think we can all get the humor of quite well without an explanation of).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

You say "Funny" I Say "Beautiful"

I have found one of the best, most beautiful and moving love songs to ever grace the internet ("If I Didn't Have You" by Tim Minchin. I'm totally serious when I say that listening to it repeatedly for the transcription was hard because I kept almost tearing up.

Now, this is technically a "comedy" song. Or by "technically", I guess I mean that the singer is among other things a comedian and that the audience has reason to laugh periodically during it.

However, this is indeed an absolutely beautiful love song.

as always, click for as complete a transcript as I can make:

Some notes:
  • Tim Minchin apparently always performs barefoot, this indeed makes me happy.
  • Additionally, there are lyrics online for this that seem to indicate that there is a longer version. However, I am going to say that I feel the other version is decidedly less good. In the excised portions, he goes for, shall we say, "easier" laughs. Eh.
  • Greta Christina's Blog is the sole reason I saw this. Thanks Greta!

Everyone I've shown this to so far, has found this silly or funny. And I get it, I really do, the humorous aspects of it. But mostly when I watch it I think of living my life with someone I love. Knowing that the fact that we met and got together was a random chance, that any of a number of things could have gone entirely differently, and that our relationship, as all relationships, is a gamble.

My and Bluejay's getting together story isn't simple (though no one's really is): we met because his ex-girlfriend went to the same college as I did, and she in turn started dating someone who lived in my dorm, and that significant other of hers became friends with Bluejay, and she was invited to visit our college. I was in a (new) monogamous relationship with (the here-after named:) the estraNged*, and it would be a stretch to imply that I was immediately attracted to Bluejay, I was so wrapped up in being with the estraNged. Months later, after the estraNged and I decided to move to Boston (itself a haphazard choice) for the summer, ze had to just about drag me to the Dyke March here, which is where Bluejay and I re-met, and when Bluejay asked for my number, (and there were still further twists).

I tell this not just because I like to hear myself speak/see myself write (though that's true too), but also to illustrate how really truly much I appreciate the ability to find beauty in random chance love. Because I think that's honestly the case: that all love is a happy accident, making this song profoundly true, and sublimely beautiful to me for speaking that truth.

*This name was decided on jointly by us, thus making "estranged" actually, patently untrue

[Edited to fix bad coding]

Monday, June 22, 2009

Quitting Work

Ever since I got my acceptance into the MSW program I've known that I had to quit work. At first I thought I'd tell them right away so they could have a while to find someone, but then it just never felt like the right time.

However, these past couple days have been truly stressfull, and last night I had a horrible anxiety dream where my boss was evil (she isn't), and I hated her (I don't) and she did something horrible (can't remember what) and I quit. This morning when I woke up I knew that I Needed to stop fucking around and actually do tell her that I'm leaving.

It went surprisingly well, especially with the anxiety that I'd been heaping upon it. Then I realized, leaving, what about this that made it so hard: I've never had to do this before. I mean sure, I've been working since I was legally old enough, but it's always had a clear ending in advance. The summers ended, I left town for college, the stipend was for X months, I left college for the rest of the world, rinse and repeat. So this is the first time that I've had to have a talk about it. It should have been obvious to me what the problem was, but being in it, I was unable to have the necessary distance.

I'm just glad my anxiety was misplaced.

Friday, June 19, 2009

An Open Letter to Sascha Baron Cohen

Mr. Cohen,

We need to have words. Namely we need to talk about this "humor" of yours. Mr. Cohen, I've heard somewhere that the humor in your movies is in showing the bigotry in seemingly otherwise nice individuals. That the point of Borat is to show hidden racism and the point of Bruno is to show hidden homophobia.

Mr. Cohen, give me 10 minutes and the internet and I promise I can show you all the bigotry you want. Here, an example: by Womanist Musings, an article about two separate cases of latino men who were attacked by otherwise "nice" people. One of them is dead. In both cases the perpetrators got off with a laughable sentence.
Perhaps if you're in the mood, you can scroll down to the comments where I talk about the recent case in Massachusetts where 4 queer friends were attacked by a group of men who screamed "die faggot" at them and beat and kicked one of them unconcious, and left another also with brain damage. In case you're wondering, the only man charged with the crime will never serve time because the judge decided to give him probation. Mr. Cohen, is that hilarious enough for you?

Or, in case those are too far removed, too distant for you, I can tell you about some things I know personally. I know personally that as a queer youth, I was subject to the most hilarious situation when I was basically told by a lady in a restaurant that my affectionate kiss of my partner was X-rated. We were told to not kiss in front of her kid. Perhaps you could put that in your next movie meant to show exactly how funny bigots are.
Or maybe, you'd like to talk to an acquaintance of mine who had the hilarious experience of having someone she thought of as a friend cross the street to get away from her. See, it was halloween, and she's black and she was dressed as a man. HILARIOUS huh? I mean, you can't MAKE SHIT LIKE THIS UP, it's just SOOO GOOD when you realize that people you know and thought of as friends apparently find your race terrifying.

So basically Mr. Cohen, if you want to show homophobia and racism, you actually don't need to get dressed up in characters. All you need to do to find hilarious bigotry is follow around someone who is actually a target of it. And if you want to show how bigoted other people are, you DEFINITELY don't need to do it in supposedly "funny" characters.

Actually, come to think of it, I'm not sure I think bigotry is all that funny.

Maybe that's your problem.

The Deviant E

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hate Crimes

On Saturday I went to Pride with Bluejay. We marched with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. Pride was fun, but at the same time somewhat unfullfilling. We walked past, people cheered: "Yay trannies!" or "Trans Rights!" etc. etc. But it's sort of hollow isn't it? The gay community in general isn't all that good about trans issues.
For an example, yesterday Bluejay called me up really pissed: a gay news feed that he reads had an article about a "gay couple" that "snookered" New York into marrying them, because they had a food stamp card that indicated one of them was female. Never minding that this woman was trans, that they used the wrong name to refer to her (and then put her preferred name in those fucking quotation marks of disrespect), or that her husband explicitly does not consider himself gay.

Anway, at Pride we're marching we're marching. We've got signs that say: "Support HB 1728 and S 1687" But how the hell do you make that into a chant? Are people at Pride even there to be educated? I sort of doubt that. I think Pride's supposed to be really feel good. But it's hard to feel good about marching when you realize that most people who see your signs aren't going to bother to remember to actually DO anything, they'll feel like they supported us just by cheering, as though cheering will make our community's homelessness and joblessness go away.

So, on the topic of protests/rallies that have actual purpose, I bring you: "On Thursday at 4 PM at the Boston Municipal Court (corner of Merrimac and New Chardon Streets), protestors will gather to denounce the lenient sentence imposed on convicted gay-basher Fabio Brandao. Join us in demanding that the legal system punish anti-gay violence." Facebook event with more information

I'll be going. See you there?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Grad School Essay

This is a cheaty McCheaterson post, since I spent 2 weeks crafting this for grad school, and not for this lovely blog. But I am very, very proud of it, and I do love the accolades, so I thought I'd post it here so that people outside of my editors (family and friends) and admittance office could see it.

“Why social work?” my father asked me.

I tried to address his skepticism by talking about all the career opportunities that exist for social workers, all the jobs I’ve wanted for which an M.S.W. is required. I told him that the idea has been in my mind since long before college, and that social justice is important to me.

I also tried to explain to him about my job now, how it doesn’t fulfill me or excite me. I want to show up to work and engage with the problems I see in the world around me; problems like sexism and classism, racism and homophobia. The job I want to be at is one working with those directly affected by these social ills, working with oppressed communities to fight their oppression. Instead I run a computer lab in an apartment complex.

The kids who use my lab are generally the ones whose families can’t afford to get computers for them. They aren’t bad kids, but like everyone else they’ve picked up homophobia and sexism and (internalized) racism from the people around them. I want to help them overcome these biases, but in order to do so, I have to hide social justice in pizza making and movie watching. I want to run cooperative workshops with them about domestic violence, safer sex, and fighting racism. Instead, I had to ask a kid to leave until we could talk about why he would call someone a “fag.”

I learned recently from my supervisor that one of the kids using the lab (“Peter”) isn’t a resident; he’s from the Section 8 housing nearby. Peter and the other kids like to skateboard on the property, even though it’s against the rules, and sometimes they cause damage with their skateboarding. When they were doing this a few weeks ago, someone in the office went out to tell them to stop, and Peter called her a “cunt,” a word much like “fag,” a word meant to hurt someone by using a fundamental part of their identity as the curse itself. In telling me the story later, my supervisor finished, saying, “If he comes back, let me know so that we can call the police and have him trespassed from the property.”

Peter is 14, Black, and lives in government-subsidized housing. My supervisor’s first reaction to him is to call the police. Never mind that he is a kid. Never mind that those who are labeled as criminals are more likely to start identifying themselves as such and behaving to match. Never mind that involvement with the police now is only more likely to start him down a path to more crimes and a life in and out of the legal system.

Last week my supervisor told me that every time Peter comes on the property and the police get called, he slips away before they get there: “It’s like he has a secret sense when they’re about to show up,” she says. She seems pleased when she tells me that one time the police caught him in the nearby grocery store’s parking lot.

I told my dad that I wonder where her priorities are. I wonder if she would respond this way if he was white. I wonder if she has always viewed the labeling of 14-year-olds as “criminal” as an unqualified good; if she truly doesn’t see the problematic aspects of our criminal justice system. I told my father that I’m worried that if I keep working there I’ll start seeing her reaction as reasonable, that I’ll stop seeing the humanity in others. I see becoming a social worker as an important step in finding a better response to Peter than “Let’s call the police.”

I know that obtaining an M.S.W. will make me better equipped intellectually and systemically to deal with these issues. There is power in knowledge, and there is power in power. As a computer lab coordinator, my voice is just one among many. Being a social worker gives an added gravitas, it confers a level of respect that is absent elsewhere. Becoming a social worker will give me more knowledge and lend me the authority to use it.

But that is an incomplete answer to “Why social work?” The complete answer includes the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers.

“Social workers seek to enhance the capacity of people to address their own needs.”

This statement speaks to me as a transgendered person.

There aren’t a lot of us. Or maybe they are. The research is spotty. Because for a very long time, trans populations were studied solely by male doctors, and they were only interested in trans women. Research into trans history shows that these doctors decided whether to let a trans woman into the program based on whether they thought she was attractive enough. When the people who held the keys to medical access decided whether someone deserved treatment by how attractive a woman she was, or by how well ze was able to function in a transphobic society pre-hormones or surgery, when some trans men were denied the right to transition unless they pretended to be straight, it kind of makes it hard to get a good read on our numbers.

Writing about my trans identity for people with a stake in my future is scary. What if I come across as too angry? Too strident? What if I sound scary? In Massachusetts, my employer and my landlord are legally allowed to fire me or refuse me tenancy based solely on my gender identity. Is it any surprise that I’m not out to my landlord or at work? Closeting myself takes a great emotional toll, but the thought of getting fired or not having a place to live is terrifying. Those are my choices: deny who I am or risk my job and my housing. My trans identity is invisible in the male clothes I wear—it isn’t abnormal in our society for female-bodied people to wear pants. But for so many in the trans community, this isn’t possible. If they wear the clothes that make them happy and healthy, they are immediately recognizable as the Other.

Like many other oppressed communities, the trans community experiences a disproportionate level of poverty and poor health. Finding employers who are willing to hire us and doctors who are willing and able to treat us is difficult. Recently I read (in an article by a well-meaning writer) that gender dysphoria is in the DSM IV as a protection to trans people. The writer apparently did not know that many in the trans community are opposed to the pathologizing of our lives and find that it doesn’t help us. If he had researched the situation, he would have learned that health insurance companies often use trans status as a reason to deny approval for medical treatments, and that trans people in the U.S. have to pay out of pocket for the exact same hormones and surgeries that are covered for others.

“Social workers seek to enhance the capacity of people to address their own needs.”

We don’t need the type of “protection” the DSM offers. We need people who understand the Social Work Code of Ethics and listen first. We need allies in power, and we need trans social workers.

A couple of months ago, my partner (who is also trans) had a very frustrating and downright scary situation with his roommates, who were trying to extort money from him. We called Legal Aid multiple times to find out what our rights were and what options we had. We were anxious; we didn’t know if my partner’s trans identity would be mentioned in a legal setting, and we didn’t know what would happen if it was. After all, trans people are still unequal under the law here. I didn’t even feel comfortable bringing this up with Legal Aid, because I worried that the person on the other end of the line wouldn’t understand.

But one time we called, it was very different. The person answering the phone asked for our names, and then asked whether our preferred names were the same as our legal ones. He asked me about our pronouns (male for me; male, female, or both for my partner). He asked whether my partner’s status was being used against him. The guy who answered the phone was trans too, and he was working on getting everyone in the office to be aware and ask these questions. His being trans, and out, informed his work.

I can’t even begin to describe how much easier I slept that night, knowing that Legal Aid was trans-friendly. Knowing that they hired trans people. Not just trans people, but out trans people. Knowing that people there were responsive to our community – that not only would they not refuse to help us, but that someone there was excited to make the system accessible for us. Talking to him was the first time I truly felt we had an ally.

Why social work?

Because trans people need help, but also we need to be able to help ourselves. Because for trans people to have the ability to help ourselves, we need to be able to not just be the ones calling for help, we need to be the ones who get called. Because I want to be that person on the other end of the phone, to make someone else’s life a little less scary.

I don’t know the future, no one does, but I do know that being trans has shaped me. I hope that being trans makes me more aware of the needs of other communities, or at the very least, the need of others to have self-determination. While I will never experience being a person of color, Deaf, or having grown up in poverty, being trans has helped me realize even more keenly what I already believed. It is vital that I listen long and hard to others, that I not assume that my experience of the world is the most valid just because it is mine. As a feminist, as an anti-racist, as a trans person, the future that I look for is one where the intersections of oppression are understood and dismantled, so that everyone – regardless of socio-economic standing, gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, or able-bodied status – is treated with respect and understanding. So that no one is left behind in the struggle for justice.

This is a very good time for me to point out, these are the words written by Me, the proprietor of this here blog, and as such, are not available for redistribution without citation. As in, don't try to steal any of this, mkay?

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Or at least I'm going to try.

So good news: last week I found out (a week after applying) that I was accepted into the fall semester for the Social Work program I was excited about. I may be posting the absolutely brilliant essay which helped get me in very shortly. Ego? What ego?

Bad news: in the time I was away from blogging, bigotry has continued in the world. Damn. You'd think people would have the consideration to not do this shit while I can't write about/engage with it! (Or at all, *sigh* that'd be nice)

I saw the new Star Trek movie with my family a couple weeks back. It was very frustrating listening afterward to my mother talking about Uhura. (Spoilers ahead!!!)

My mom's totally a feminist (or, she definitely identifies as one, and she's generally pretty aware of sexism happening around her), but she totally bought into stupid sexist bullshit during the movie.

A brief explanation: Uhura is the SOLE female character of substance in the original television show and the current movie. In the movie, there are 4 females that even have lines (or it feels like it). They are, respectively: the mothers of Spock and Kirk, and Uhura and her roommate. Who, coincidentally, are also portrayed as the love/lust interests of Spock and Kirk (respectively).

Uhura being Spock's love interest actually had me happy, but at the same time, it's sort of frustrating the the only actually realized female character also needs to be reimagined as the +1 to Spock.

But whatever. The problem was, after the movie, my mother tried to argue that we were supposed to think/she thought that Uhura was therefore only allowed on the Starship Enterprise because she was sleeping with her professor/superior officer (Spock), and that the REASON in the movie that Spock told her that she was "the best," was because he said it in some sort of post-coital, pre-coital attempt to woo her or something.

REALLY Mom? Even though throughout the movie we are hit over the head about the extreme competence of Uhura? Even though there is a scene where the ACTUAL communications officer (who presumably has years of experience, and more training than Uhura) is by far less competent than she is? (Uhura, we learn, knows all the dialects of Romulan and Vulcan) Even though we see a scene where she intercepts Klingon (I believe) transmissions that are supposed to be far above her level and then translates them. And then uses that translation with Kirk to recognize a larger pattern?

We're supposed to think that she's just a "dumb bimbo" (not an actual quote), buying her way into Star Fleet by her wiles? I came away from it thinking none of that, thinking that the relationship was one primarily of equals (yes, he is her professor, but he is a very recent graduate himself, and she is about to become one). I didn't even CONSIDER a "dumb bimbo" situation. The only conceivable explanation to me was that Spock, being very intelligent (and logical, naturally) himself, would only ever be attracted to someone equally as intelligent and hard working.

Don't worry. Mom's all set now about how she ignored all the evidence to fall into sexist tropes. Love ya.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Not Giving In

The U.S. tortures.

And our President clearly doesn't care.

The Telegraph (a British paper) has reported on this recently, and Obama's press secretary laughed it off, basically saying that British papers are all tabloids, and you shouldn't trust what you read from them.

I need to do something, but everything I think of seems small and inconsequential, or it seems too big, too massive, impossible to do.

Last night, Bluejay reminded me about the Darfur refugees. Many of the women have been raped by the Darfur forces, and then fled across the border into Chad and were raped again by the Chadian ones. Once they have been raped, their families just discard them, as so much trash.

As Bluejay pointed out, it's not like we can boycott products from Chad. I need to do something, but everything I think of seems too small or too massive.

Recently a judge in the UK told a man that his attempted murder of his wife was "understandable." He stabbed her in the neck with a pair of scissors and pushed her down a flight of stairs.

People are dying and nothing is done. We all need to do something, but everything is either too big or too small.

Dr. Tiller was recently murdered, it was the direct result of the anti-choice movement's use of dehumanizing rhetoric, of pictures with him in a cross-hair graphic, of a "Tiller Watch," of the posting of the home addresses of doctors (who perform abortions) and lists which show the cross off names of other murdered doctors. Of them calling doctors "murderers" for helping to save a woman's life. President Obama has said that he was "shocked." How can one be shocked? Dr. Tiller was killed after years of death threats. How is this surprising?

Something must be done. I refuse to give in to the crushing weight of it all. I refuse to be helpless. I am making a committment here and now to spend an hour a week (frankly it's a pittance), every week making phone calls and writing letters to stop this type of madness. To petition my government to stand up and take notice.

Something must be done.