Sunday, November 20, 2011

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2011

Today we honor those we have lost simply for being themselves. While Transgender Day of Remembrance is a somber reminder of how brutal the world is, we can also cherish those that we have. There are still many transgender people fighting the public fight, along with many behind the scenes trying to make the world a better place for all of us. Not only that, but everyone that lives their life true to themselves is helping make the journey a little easier for those still to come.

I just flew back from China yesterday, so I missed a number of local DOR activities on Friday, and chilled at a friend's place yesterday evening. With the weather and the roads a mess this afternoon, I decided not to venture over an hour to any of the distant ceremonies tonight, but I will simply light a solitary candle this evening to honor those transgender people that have been killed this past year.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

2011 Transgender Film Festival

Tonight was the conclusion of the 10th Annual San Francisco Transgender Film Festival. For those that didn't know there were 9 of them before tonight, the festival started going by a new name this year. It used to be Trannyfest. While I'm sure there was always the issue of people disliking the use of Tranny in Trannyfest, the organizers said it was a lot easier for them to secure funding by changing the name so more people were clear on what exactly the film festival was about.

As I tell anyone else attending a short film festival, there will always be a variety of films...including good ones, bad ones, really bad ones, and some type of stoner flick.

Here's my rundown:

Lek and the Water Boy (Thailand)
An interesting film about a young boy as he explores his identity and sexuality kicked off the night, but it lacked a bit in the way of story cohesiveness and symbolism that it was trying to project.

Joan (Canada)
A stoner flick this soon...oh no!

The Lusty Gypsies (USA)
This one didn't make much sense to me, but it was a transsexual and a CD/DQ competing for time on stage while dealing with their own personal issues.

Living Together Apart (Netherlands)
Visually appealing, but that's only good for a few seconds...the rest was meh.

Lili Longed to Feel Her Insides (USA)
Interesting use of symbolism, but I didn't connect with it.

Mais Ou Menos (More or Less) (Brazil)
This film was pretty good quality, but used the typical hesitant and closeted gay lover scenario. I liked it overall and it was probably in my top three of the night...regardless of the predictable plot line.

The Panty Man (USA)
This film was more of a spoken word performance of a man who had a sexual relationship with another man who loved to wear lace panties. The spoken word was really good, along with the film and sound quality of the piece. This was in my top three, as well.

Dayzee Dee's Dazzling Drag Balls (USA)
This was a very short documentary on early drag performers. I felt it was way too short to give the material due credit. If they had material for an hour or more, this would make a great documentary as a regular film in a festival.

Help Wanted (USA)
The story was fitting for the trans world and the current economic situation. It was an excellent film for the times we live in, but also a good role model film for anyone dealing with undesirable economic situations.

The Girl Bunnies. Big Tree. (Canada)
Bad...and a stoner flick. Although this reminded me of "Charlie the Unicorn", at least this film had more plot. (Why are the two bad stoner movies from Canada?)

Guf. Bait. Body. (Israel)
A good use of language, but this film was too simple...basically taking any three phrases, three scenes, and just kinda rotating through them in different languages.

Perception (USA)
Basically too short to give it a review, this was a little piece of spoken word with a floating picture.

Transsexual Dominatrix (USA)
This was viewed last year (I think...or maybe I saw it at Framline...who knows. Sigh. I'm getting old.), so I'm not sure why it made it back in the rotation...except that it was made by the director of the event. I guess that is good enough for getting two, it seemed to be one of the fan favorites.


James Dean (UK)
I'm betting this one was from Northern Ireland, because the actors seemed to have some gnarly Irish accents. The film is a prelude to a family on a road trip when one of the daughters decides there is still time to get dressed the way he likes. I made out about 75% of the words, even though they were speaking English. Overall, I liked this film, although I wish I could have made out the other 25%...which might have allowed me to like it even more. It was in my top three, as well.

My winner for the night? Well, believe it or not, I'm going to give my top honors to The Panty Man for nice use of spoken word, great camera work and lighting, story flow, and stunning visuals. Runner-up to Mais Ou Menos.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Frameline 2011

I'm late again this year in my review of all the films I watched at this year's Frameline Filmfest. Fortunately, one of the films I was unable to view in June was recently shown in Berkeley, so I was able to catch it, too.

The Night Watch (IMDb link)

I started off the filmfest with this import from the UK. (Let me preface this by saying I sometimes struggle with British and Irish's either the accent, humor, or storyline. Yes, yes...Hollywood has either tainted me or I just do not get the English.) This movie is from a Sarah Waters novel and mixed in a variety of interconnected stories post-WW2. Most of the stories involved LGBT characters, but not all.

The characters, acting, and scenery were great. The stories were very interesting, too, but I think too much time was spent on one of the characters wandering aimlessly around London. Overall, I liked it, and thought it was a nice time-period piece with lesbian and gay characters.

We Who Are Sexy: The Whirlwind History of Transgender Images in Cinema

This one wasn't really a movie, but a collection of movie clips from over the years that had some sort of transgender topic or idea. These were not the mainstream movies or even some of the B-movies that have had transgender themes...these were the fairly obscure and hard to find movies. Some of the clips were entertaining, many weren't. Film historians Jenni Olson and Susan Stryker narrated these clips in person. I kinda wish I had skipped this one, but in the land of independent films, it's hard to pick out all the good ones worth seeing.

Renée (Netflix link)

Being an athlete, and a transsexual athlete at that, I really wanted to catch this documentary on Renee Richards, a transsexual tennis star from the 70's. When Renee burst on the scene in 1976, I was only 6 years old and had no idea what was happening in the world of tennis...let alone the transgender world. This documentary took a good look at her life, along with excerpts from many of her friends and competitors from that era. I really liked this film as it gave me a glimpse of how things were for a transsexual athlete in the 70's. This documentary was enabled through ESPN sports, so the editing and film quality were fantastic.

Judas Kiss (IMDb link)(Netflix link) (website)

The past few years I have tried to cram in any movie that at least looks decent. This one was from the gay male variety, so the theatre was mainly filled with gay men. The story involved a gay screenwriter getting a chance to go back and make things right in college. The acting was a little shy here and there, but overall fairly good. Being gay with the concept of time travel, though, opened up an interesting scene of having sex with one's self. This film ended up being a little corny and had some major gaps, but it was entertaining and had fairly good camera work.

Films: Transtastic (Trans Shorts)

I was late to this set of transgender short films because someone smashed into my car while I was driving on my way to the BART station. (More on that in another post.) As I like to tell any of my friends that go with me to any set of short films, there are usually all types...from the serious, to the funny, to the romantic...and typically there is always a stoner flick. In this case, we had them all, including at least one stoner flick.

My friend, Marty, had a film selected for this collection of shorts. I helped him and another friend, Lisa, brainstorm for an idea, but I was too busy to help write a script this year.

Fluidity - Bisexual Shorts

Continuing with the shorts theme, this was a collection of bisexual short films. My favorite involved a tea/coffee metaphor for being lesbian/straight. There was a stoner flick in this set, too.

Tomboy (IMDb link) (Netflix link)

Perhaps my favorite film of the fest was this French gem from Céline Sciamma. In this film, a young tomboy named Laure moves into a new neighborhood, and when she is initially mistaken for a boy, she runs with it for as long as she can. Obviously things can't go on like that forever, but between then and the end, Laure finds a way to live life uninhibited. Malonn Lévana, the very young actress that played Laure's younger sister, Jeanne, totally stole the show whenever she was featured. Definitely a must see!

Films: Girl Scouting

This was another series of lesbian short films. I can't remember any that particularly stood out as being good. There was definitely a stoner flick in there somewhere.


This was another one that looked good from the description, but turned out to not be that great. There were a few funny scenes, but nothing to make up for the rest of the film. This one was sort of a coming out story set in 1982...that mixed in some of the serious side of being gay with a lot of curious humor. The scene of three guys masturbating in bed while watching porn was pretty interesting. I thought this might be a "Brokeback Mountain" set in the 80's college scene, but it was far from that.

Orchids: My Intersex Adventure (website)

When I first saw the description for this movie, I had really high hopes. I even picked this one over an LGBT sports related film. The documentary was good, but not quite what I expected. I don't really know many intersex people, so I wanted to see this film to hear their stories.

In this documentary, two sisters born with AIS travel around Australia talking with other IS people. While their visits with other IS people showed a more varied picture of being IS, the story of the two sisters was more compelling, especially with their parents involved. It turned out to be a pretty good flick, but probably needed a little more content and a little more editing to refine it into a great film.

Films: Fun in Girls Shorts

This was a series of lesbian short films, with one definitely worth watching. As a bunch of women sit around playing cards, one gets a call that a family member has passed away. She's cautious about returning because she hasn't been back since..."you came out as a lesbian" says one of the other women. The main woman finishes with, "since I was a man." I was hooked.

All of the women were played by cisgender women, but it was an interesting film depicting how it is as a trans woman coming out to a lesbian partner. I've found that even though lesbian women have gone through their own journey, not all of them are OK with the journey that a trans woman takes.


Gun Hill Road (IMDb link)(Netflix link)

Esai Morales stars as the ex-con just released from prison. He returns home to his family only to find that things are changing. His son is gradually becoming more feminine and he believes his wife is cheating on him. He starts out doing things by the book, but gradually loses it as he deals with all of his hurdles, including his own pent up secret. Harmony Santana does a fantastic job as Michael/Vanessa in a story that brings out many facets of being a transgender youth. There are a few slow periods in the movie, and there probably could have been a little more interaction with Vanessa and her boyfriend, but overall I enjoyed this high quality film.

Summary: Hmmm...looking back over my list, I sure did see a lot of short films. They almost start to run together, but I typically remember the good ones. Most of the others tend to fall to the wayside.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This Week in the Transgender World

It seems that transgender topics have been in the mainstream news the past day or two...first with Chaz Bono being selected for Dancing with the Stars, and tonight's ABC Primetime Nightline program on transgender kids.

Chaz Bono's selection has caused a major issue with many. They say he is overweight and was selected for the show based on who his parents are, but the same complaints were issued for Bristol Palin when she was on the show. The main reason people are complaining is because they "don't want the transgender stuff shoved down their throats." It comes down to many reasons...some feel it threatens their religious philosophy, some are fearful based on their own dark secrets, and some are just afraid of how to explain it to their kids.

As Sarah stated on Alice Radio this morning, "we took the parental controls off the internet and just tell the kids to go look it up" as they discussed how parents should handle the whole situation. Kids can learn hate, bias, and discrimination from their parents almost too easily. As long as the parents take some initiative and explain what is going on, the kids won't grow up to be just like many closed-minded adults.

I liked what Vinnie had to say, as well, "He looks like a dude. If they just introduced him as Chaz and left it at that, there wouldn't be the controversy...but he has his famous parents, and I'm sure they'll play that card."

(I'm paraphrasing Sarah and Vinnie, as I do not totally recall the exact words that they stated.)

I found the program on ABC Primetime Nightline to be very different from many transgender news programs of the past. This one seemed more real and told very moving stories, but unfortunately, they did not include any transgender boys in the stories...only girls.

The program starts with 10-year-old Jackie in her first few months as a girl. It continues with Dyson and his mother, Cheryl, who has written a book called "Princess Boys". Next they followed Vanessa, 19, who ventured to Mexico for feminization surgeries which she funded by working the streets. Because most news programs tend to provide both sides of the story, they interviewed Charles Kane who transitioned from male to female, and then back to male. He discussed his regret and his eventual de-transition. They finished off with Kim Petras, a 19-year-old internet pop singer from Germany who had SRS at the age of 16.

These two items would typically be quite a bit this week. But wait, there's even more yet to come.

Two years ago, Caster Semenya's gender came into question at the 2009 World Track and Field championships. Although Caster Semenya is believed to be intersex and not a transsexual, she's racing this week in the World Track and Field championships in Daegu, South Korea. Caster still faces questions about her masculine looks and her gender identity, but I wish her luck in my favorite track event...the 800m.

Overall, though, I'm sure we'll be seeing more about Chaz, along with plenty of transgender topics, in the near future.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I should have been a vegetarian.

I grew up in the Midwest, so, meat was a regular part of my diet as a kid. Early on, any time that I had to eat meat, I typically struggled if it was anything but on the verge of being burnt. Steak with any pinkish color on the inside made me gag. Eating chicken with the meat still on the bone grossed me out. Hot dogs that weren't burned to a crisp on the outside caused me to spit it out. As long as it no longer resembled anything alive, I did OK. The only exception was bologna. Somehow I was fine with it up until like 8th or 9th grade when all of a sudden I realized it seemed like raw meat and the whole gagging thing kicked in again.

When I tell people that I should have been a vegetarian and how I used to gag on non-burnt meat as a kid, they tell me it's never too late to stop eating meat. Perhaps I could do it, but I think I would inevitably return to meat, mainly for one reason.


I have heard numerous stories about vegetarians going back to meat simply for bacon. Some go back for burgers. I tell friends that once you taste bacon, it's almost impossible to give it up. There's just no going back. Unfortunately for me, a vegetarian isn't the only thing I should have been.

I should have been a girl.

I grew up with male genes, so being a boy and doing masculine things was part of growing up. Early on, though, I knew something was different, but I didn't have any words for it. I didn't know how to talk to anyone about it, and that feeling continued to well up inside. I just did what I thought boys were supposed to do. As long as I didn't think too much about it, I did OK. The only exception was when girls were around...and, well, they were around a lot. Somehow I managed up until 7th or 8th grade when puberty hit. Once testosterone arrived on the scene, I would go through periods where things were mild, and at other times, I would go through these just horrible periods of my life.

I recently watched an intersex documentary about two girls born XY. They were never exposed to testosterone, and thus, looked like genetic girls. Another intersex person had the same condition, but had been treated with testosterone at an early age, and thus, was affected by the nasty drug. She ended up having the same journey as most transsexuals, at that point.

If I had never been exposed to testosterone, I think I would have lived a fairly "normal" female life. Once you're exposed to testosterone, though, there's just no going back.

That's not to say it isn't worth trying, though. You see, for me, there was no bacon in the gender world.

In the world of food, you're a vegetarian until you eat meat. Once you eat meat, you're no longer considered a vegetarian. But if you're a meat eater, once you eat a vegetable, you're still considered, well, you're still considered a meat eater.


I suppose I am a vegetarian in between the times that I eat meat. I like to call myself a flexitarian. I like vegetables, but I eat meat once in a while. So many people cannot see the gray area, though. Why can't I be vegetarianish and still eat meat?

I live in that gray area in a lot of things. I know I am a girl, but I was exposed to the testosterone. I may have a different past than most girls, but I can still be a girl...just hold the bacon.

Tall women

Almost a month ago, I was celebrating my 41st birthday in the city with a bunch of friends. None of them were T. Actually, two of my friends were also celebrating their birthdays, so we decided to combine our celebrations and party together.

We gathered for drinks and dancing. As the night progressed, two very tall women entered the dance floor. When I say very tall, I mean super tall. One was likely 6'2", if not taller...and she was the shorter of the two. The other had to be at least 6'5". Neither of them were wearing heels. In fact, one was wearing flats while the tallest was wearing sandals.

This harkened back to my college days of staring at shoulders when attending sports parties. The football and basketball guys, half the women's basketball team, and most of the track guys were all up around 6' tall, so I hung out with the shorter half of the women's basketball team and anyone else in attendance who felt surrounded by a sea of shoulders. It was our own little group. I think I was the shortest male athlete on campus, so it actually worked in my favor by allowing me to get to know a few of the female athletes.

"Wow, they're tall," I told my friend on the dance floor.

"Yeah...I thought they might be trans," said my friend.

I had pondered the same thing when I first saw them, but easily realized that they were cisgender.

"They're not," I told her.

I know that a lot of taller women, along with many transsexuals, of course, fall into this stereotype, especially in San Francisco, but why is it that we assume any woman over 6'1" must be trans? Are they that rare?

Monday, June 20, 2011

My mom

I haven't felt like writing much the past two months. Well, part of me has, but I haven't had any initiative to do so. As you can tell, though, I've finally found the desire to jot down some words.

I lost my mom two months ago today.

My mom was my biggest supporter. She was on board from day 1. She was with me for FFS and SRS, and came out to California when I ran for Ms. Transgender San Francisco. She was there when everyone else questioned my decisions. She was all a kid could ask for - a mom with unconditional love for her children and her family.

I'm doing OK. I am, trust me. It is definitely an unusual feeling going through the loss of a parent. Ever since my mom was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of '05, I had slowly started preparing myself for the eventual loss of my mom. They say you can never be prepared for it.

They're right.

I'm going to include my written journal entry that I wrote two months ago...just a few hours after my mom died. It is not a happy entry, but it details the last hours of my mom's life. My dad had called me around lunch the day before and told me that the nurses said if I was going to be there, I had to get there soon. I found a 6pm flight home, and arrived at the airport just after midnight. The entry follows:

I landed at the airport this morning - just past midnight. My aunt and uncle were there to pick me up, and as soon as my luggage popped up, we were on the way to my parent's house. Dad called me right after my aunt found me. Mom was still hanging in there, but not doing that great.

My uncle was exhausted about 45 minutes from my parent's place, so I took over driving. We pulled into my parent's driveway around 2:30am. My sister caught us on the steps and said that what we would find inside wouldn't be pretty. She was crying and having a hard time. I gave her a hug.

When I came inside, Mom looked like she was struggling to breathe. She would rock her head back slightly when she inhaled. There was no CPAP machine to help with her breathing. Dad tried to rouse her, but she didn't wake up. I said, "Hi, Mom. I made it. I love you." I can only hope that she heard me. We all gathered in the living room and took turns rubbing her hands, arms, or feet, and telling her that we loved her.

About 3am, my sister and dad decided to lay down for a while. I stayed up. Around 3:15am, hospice decided to give Mom some liquid pain killer along with the anti-anxiety meds. Mom's breathing seemed to become softer as though she was in less pain. We gave Mom another dose an hour later as directed by hospice, and her breathing became shallower. We woke my sister and dad since Mom's condition had changed and our hospice worker said that Mom was nearing the end.

Around 4:30am, her breathing became really shallow, which I thought was from the meds putting her in a more relaxed state, but her breaths became fainter and her time between breaths increased. She slightly leaned forward - gurgled twice - then fell back. She took one or two very shallow breaths, and then she was gone. She died around 4:37am this morning.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I haven't written much lately, and what I have, has mainly been in my own little journal that will likely never be read by anyone other than myself.

The short of the matter is that my mom is dying. She's been on hospice since February and I've been trying to get back every few weeks to help care for her. I was home last week for her 63rd birthday, along with many of my mom's brothers and sisters.

My mom has been battling cancer for almost 6 years now, and unfortunately, her fight likely won't last much longer.

Last Friday, I had an evening flight booked home. Around Friday midday, I received an emergency email notice for a LGBT speaker request with Kaiser for Saturday. Since I was going to be back in town and didn't have any pressing matters until later Saturday evening, I figured I would do the gig to represent the T while talking about health care.

The gig dealt with Kaiser health interpreters (those at hospitals that interpret for those that cannot speak English) and their interaction with LGBT patients.

At some point in the three-hour session, the topic of how to handle sensitive information came up. A few weeks back, I received an email from Kaiser that stated:

As part of our commitment to personalized health care, Kaiser Permanente is asking all current health plan members to confirm their gender and date of birth, and to identify their race/ethnicity and level of education.

These details will be added to your electronic medical record and will help us as we continue to improve quality of care and health outcomes for all our members.

Providing this information is voluntary and it will remain confidential and secure:

What is your date of birth?

What is your sex?
Transgender Male to Female
Transgender Female to Male
Other (specify)

I read this email to the participants and mentioned that as a male-to-female transsexual, I still have a prostate that needs to be monitored as I age. I also get calls very often that I need to go in for a pap smear. When I went to my new gynecologist, I was prepared to go through the whole motion of explaining my situation. When I said I was a transsexual, he said that information was already in the system, and he seemed fairly knowledgeable...stating that he had a number of transsexual patients over the years.

He said I really didn't need a pap smear every year, but that I likely needed a pelvic exam every two years. He was going to look into how that could be entered into the system so that I wasn't getting phone calls for a pap smear all the time.

I had posted the email up on a trans-forum, as well, and there was a conversation as to be straight-forward and use the MTF label, or to maintain a level of privacy by declaring simply female. I mentioned this to the group of health interpreters and said it was sometimes difficult to disclose that much information to people because it changes things.

I still haven't responded to the email, but I'm hoping I will feel confident in Kaiser's care to enter the MTF response.

Friday, February 18, 2011


When I told my parents that I would be traveling to Israel for work, they both expressed the concern that any parent would express when they think their child is headed into an unsafe environment.

"It's OK. I'll be working with my colleagues there and we'll be in the northern part of Israel...away from the terrorist areas. That, and the Egypt stuff is pretty much limited to Egypt right now."

I was pretty cautious about going to Israel, though. I mean, when you see news about Israel, it's not typically good news.

When people at work asked if I was going to have time to see the area, though, I said that I really had no need to look around. Even though Israel is full of very old historical sights, I'm not religious and had absolutely no desire to see anything.

"You'll be fine, Kara."

"It's OK. I'd rather not."

A lot of my coworkers couldn't understand why I wouldn't want to get out and see the sights, and it's not really something I can chat with them about, because besides not being religious, I was simply worried about my safety.

I'm a transsexual.

Not everyone is fond of transsexuals.

On my first full day in Israel, we had a group meeting to go over previous details and evaluate some of the progress they had made there. We were introduced to a new member of the team who had written some simulation software for the program. Once our formal meeting was over, we were all introduced to him. He wore older Jewish attire and had his hair and facial hair long. He looked like a combination of a priest and an Amish man. Like the men in our group, I stuck my hand out to shake hands with him, but he simply kept his hand by his side and shook his head.


"It's not you, Kara, he just can't touch a woman other than his's part of his religion."

I really don't understand religion...nor the amazing things people do for it. I marvel at how advanced our society has become, but shake my head sometimes with how archaic we can still be. Fortunately, I was there in Israel for science, not religion. I spent the week working with colleagues on our new technology. It went well, but they still did not understand why I didn't want to get out.

They thought I was afraid. I was...they just didn't understand why.

I flew in on Saturday and rode the train with a coworker to where we needed to be. We were able to get out at night during the week and grab a bite to eat at a number of interesting restaurants, including one which had a view of the coast up to Lebanon (which was indicated by "where the lights went out"). On my last day there, one of my local colleagues brought back falafel for lunch, which I actually enjoyed the most out of all the meals I had there. So, chalk at least one win up for the culinary delights.

After wrapping business up for the week, I caught a taxi to the train station in order to get back to the airport and fly home, to catch BART, to catch a taxi to my apartment. Planes, trains, and automobiles.

The same coworkers that said I would be safe in Israel and should get out to see the sights also warned me that I might see people walking around with machine guns. I figured if I saw any people with machine guns they would be at strategic entrances to certain buildings or something.

I did not expect them to be riding across the aisle from me on the train, nor did I expect them to be so young.

When I got to the airport Thursday evening, I went through Israeli security. Surprisingly, they do not require you to take off your shoes, but they do require about everything else...and I mean everything.

When I went to check in my bag, the security personnel there interviewed the crap out of me. They also wanted the special letter by any Israeli people that I had been working with. Once through that, the bag I was checking in was scanned. They didn't like a number of things in it, so I was pulled to the side while they went through the contents. Now, I took along my dilator because I thought I might have to go to China directly from Israel, and worried about my time without dilation. And, of course, they found the dilator tucked away in my bag, along with a tube of Surgilube. I just had to smile...because, really, it was kinda amusing to me.

They also found a can of Coke that I had stashed away in my bag. Israeli Coke is made from real sugar, and I figured I'd bring back a few as souvenirs. The inspector didn't like the one can of Coke she found in the main part of my bag, though. The woman in charge sent one of her assistants off to wrap the can of Coke in bubble wrap and put it in its own cardboard box. I told the inspector that there were two more cans of Coke in my bag. I even pointed to them. She wasn't concerned with the other two cans, though, but simply with the one can that she pulled out. And, thus, it was packaged in it's own box and sent through with the other checked baggage.

I'll probably never understand why that one can of Coke had to be packaged by itself, nor will my coworkers likely understand why I had no desire to see any of the sights there, but we each have our reasons to secure the important things in our lives.