Sex and Cis-tems of Oppression

by Joanna Poppyfield, student

Note: This post contains images that are NSFW.

bodySince I began my transition from living as a male to living as a female between my sophomore and junior year of college, my mother often expresses her pity for me at my “disability,” as she calls it. She refers to my penis.

When I began my medical transition — that is to say I started taking hormones — it was assumed that I would have surgery to “fix my problem.” Sure, there was always the option to not have the surgery, but it was often presented as less valid. I felt like there was no other option but to have surgery, or else I’d never be a “true girl.”

I’ve been living the past four years as a trans*woman — someone who is assigned a male sex and gender at birth, but instead identifies as a female — but I’ve felt feminine ever since I comprehended what feminine meant. I attached the words feminine and girl later on in my life. Continue Reading

Why I Protested at the San Francisco Pride Parade

by Elizabeth S. Q. Goodman, third-year graduate student in Mathematics

Early in the protest, the parade organizers made a wall to separate protesters from Kaiser.

On a typically beautiful Sunday in San Francisco, at the annual Pride parade of June 24, I joined SF Pride at Work for the second of two protests. We had one focus: to demand that Kaiser Permanente, a healthcare insurer that has been certified LGBT-friendly by the Human Rights Campaign, remove certain exclusions from its healthcare plan.

It is very hard to say what effect a protest has, but this should be only part of a conversation healthcare companies need to have about their care of transgender patients. SF Pride at Work chose to target Kaiser because we have reason to hope that they may change their plans. The Human Rights Campaign endorsed Kaiser Permanente for LGBT patients, in 2010, but an endorsement from the HRC is not one trans people can trust. Kaiser does make efforts to support LGBT patients, and there are people within Kaiser who would like to remove the exclusions against transgender people (which fall particularly on transsexual people). Indeed, there were people on the float and among the Kaiser marchers who were glad of this protest, and who were having conversations about it as they walked. Kaiser needs to cover the sex reassignment surgery and “related” care that many transsexual people undergo; if it does not, then it is not truly an LGBT-friendly healthcare provider. Continue Reading

Why Should I Care About Trans* Awareness Week?

by Alok Vaid-Menon, ’13

As a member of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation, a queer activist group on campus, I’ve been organizing Beyond the Binaries: Transgender Awareness Week 2012 for the past few weeks and I want to contribute my thoughts on why you should care that Stanford is hosting Beyond the Binaries.

1. Chances are you know very little about transgender experience

You may  have several gay friends and resonate deeply with their struggles. You may identify as an ‘ally,’ and believe that all gay people should have the right to marry and serve in the military. Yet, I doubt that you know much about transgender identity, politics, and the experience of transgender people in our country It’s not your fault. Openly trans* people make up a very small percentage of our population. You don’t learn about trans* people in class. There are only a few out trans* students at our school.  This is why it’s important to have a Transgender Awareness Week. Most people (even in the ‘LGBT’ community) are blithely ignorant about transgender issues. In coordinating a week dedicated to trans* experiences we highlight narratives, issues, and perspectives that are often lost or neglected in our dominant culture. Continue Reading

Why Transgender Awareness Week Matters

by Leanna Keyes, ’14


In the parody video “Sh*t Sorority Girls Say,” one (drag-costumed) man bubbily suggests, “Let’s raise awareness!” as if such a goal is silly or ineffective. And yet, in the face of the catastrophically cissexist* interview Barbara Walters conducted for trans* Miss Universe contestant Jenna Talackova, I’m reminded of just how far we’ve come and how very very far we still have to go.

Riese of Autostraddle already did a great breakdown of many of the reasons this interview was a disaster, so I won’t repeat her words–go read them if you have the time, they’re worth it. The gist is that Walters asked Talackova a string of questions that were extremely invasive without even realizing that she was being wildly inappropriate. It was the standard slew of clueless-interviewer questions asked to trans* people: “Which bathroom did you use?” “Have you had the surgery?” “Did your boyfriend know?” and the like, all framed such that Talackova’s gender is based purely on her surgical status and ability to be read the way Walters likes–i.e., read as cis, female, conventionally attractive–rather than being something that Talackova herself is allowed to determine. My absolute favorite quote from this interview:

“So if I saw you undressed you would look like a woman to me, totally? Yes?” – Barbara Walters

This is why we need Transgender Awareness Week. Continue Reading

Let’s talk about Trans Rights, And That Means You

by Elizabeth S. Q. Goodman, third-year graduate student in Mathematics 


I use some terms in this article which may be unfamiliar to many readers. Here is a useful glossary that gives definitions I believe to be current. Also, trigger warnings for several brief discussions of violence.

A full-time blogger named Natalie Reed recently wrote about an upcoming bill, C-279, which aims to make gender identity protections in Canada. Many Canadians, she says, assumes that transgender people already have protections against discrimination; but these laws are not sufficiently explicit, have been subject to interpretation, and even a court case about discrimination against a trans woman ultimately ruled that such discrimination was legal. Please read her article, skip my piece if you already care about trans rights, and if you’re Canadian, I hope you’ll write to your MP. Even if you’re not, you can sign this petition which is gaining momentum, and you can spread the word.

So, why should cis Canadians worry about trans rights? Why should cis Stanford students or Americans care? Even if we do care, what good will it do to talk about rights for transgender people, particularly transsexual people? Continue Reading

Ivory Tower Activism

by Leanna Keyes, ‘14

This is a post about questions, not about answers. I am not arguing a point. I am looking for help.

I have this internal struggle at least once a month where I question the course of my life. Specifically, I wonder about being at Stanford University. This is a world of incredible privilege, and I don’t just mean the backgrounds of the people. I don’t have to worry about buying healthy food, my co-op provides it for me. I receive high quality medical care at the drop of a hat. While my housing can be psychologically dangerous (i.e. verbal transphobia) I am by and large physically safe. We have a well-stocked and well-staffed LGBT Community Resources Center. I have easy and ready access to a wide variety of activist organizations. If I experience hostility, there are well-defined procedures in place for me to seek recourse. I have access to jobs with excellent working conditions that fit flexibly into my course schedule. Continue Reading