2008 – Transgender Study Group

This Group was organized by three pittbsurgh transpeople. A statement from the facilitators is at the bottom of the syllabus
Week 1 (Jan. 30): Introductions
Introducing some terms & concepts for discussion. 
  • Julia Serano, “Trans Woman Manifesto,” “Coming to Terms with Transgenderism and Transsexuality,” Whipping Girl (2006).
  • Emi Koyama, “The Transfeminist Manifesto” (2001).
Week 2 (Feb. 6): Media Representations | Cissexual Privilege
Critically examining pop culture and media representations of trans people. Name & explain cissexual privilege.
Week 3 (Feb. 13): History of trans activism in the US | ENDA
Trans & gender transgressive led rebellions of the 1960’s. Reaction to the removal of trans people from the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed in the House.
Week 4 (Feb. 20): Intersections of transgender issues, racism, and resistance
Racial disparities among trans people & an example of resistance.
Week 5 (Feb 27): Bathroom Access *public showing, not in our usual meeting place*
Problems created by sex-segretated bathrooms. 
Toilet Training flyer
Week 6 (March 5):  Colonization/decolonization, genocide, and Two-Spirit/trans oppression
The effects of colonization on First Nations people’s sexualities & the resistance. 
Week 7 (March 12): Stealth and “Passing” | Trans In/Exclusion
Double bind facing trans people regarding disclosing one’s trans status. The inclusion of trans people in sex segregated spaces.
Week 8 (March 19): Mixed Consciousness | Intersectional trans activism
Trans activism that prioritizes those most affected by multiple systems of oppression. 
  • Nico Dacumos, “All Mixed Up With No Place To Go: Inhabiting Mixed Consciousness on the Margins,” Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, edited by Mattilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore (2006).
  • Dean Spade, “Compliance is Gendered: Struggling for Gender Self-Determination in a Hostile Economy,” Transgender Rights, edited by Paisley Currah, Richard M. Juang, and Shannon Price Minter (2006).
March 26: No meeting so that folks can attend Kate Bornstein Performance 
Kate Bornstein Performance (sponsored by University of Pittsburgh’s Women’s Studies Program)
8:45 PM at the Cathedral of Learning Room G8
Week 9 (April 2): Identity & Institutions | Prostitution
The history of the criminalization of transsexuals, a critique of identity-based politics, critiques of FTM/white/middle-class trans activism.
  • Viviane Namaste, “Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions,” Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions, and Imperialism (2005).
  • “Statement for Social Service Agencies and Transsexual/Transgender Organizations on Service Delivery to Transsexual and Transvestite Prostitutes,” Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions, and Imperialism (2005).
  • Viviane Namaste, “Interview with Mirha-Soleil Ross,” Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions, and Imperialism (2005).
Week 10 (April 9): Trans people and the prison industrial complex
Trans people disproportinately end up in prison. Transsexual women are often forced to be in men’s prisons.

Transgender Study Group – Statement from the facilitators

  1. Please be gentle with us and each other and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. We have a lot of other things going on in our lives, and this has taken a lot of effort to organize. This is the first time we’ve done this group, and it was organized from scratch. We’ve done our best to prioritize issues and reading materials we think are important in the limited time we have. If we have not included something, we may simply not know about it, so please feel free to suggest things.
  2. There are lots of different power dynamics in the room. There are people of different races, sexes, classes, religions, abilities and so on. Trans and cisgender is not the only dynamic that is going on. These are all important things to be aware of. We will do our best to create a space that feels good for everyone, but in order to do that, sometimes you might feel uncomfortable if some aspect of your privilege is challenged. But this is a responsibility that is shared by everyone, especially since we may not be aware of when something problematic is happening in the room. So we hope that everyone will feel empowered to point out things that are racist, classist, sexist, abelist and so forth and not simply let this burden fall on those experiencing the oppression.
  3. Recognize when you might be backlashing. Backlash is a defensive reaction when people’s privileges are pointed out or challenged. It can take many forms including an uncomfortable feeling, denial, dismissiveness, anger, or an insistence that one “didn’t mean it that way.” If you feel the urge to challenge something someone has said, try to check first to see if you are reacting defensively.
  4. It’s a privilege to be here exploring these materials. Information about trans people is often hidden from everyone, including trans people. It is locked away in academic libraries and in expensive videos. Not all trans people have access to this material. If you leave here and encounter people—both cisgender and transgender—who may not have thought about some of the things we’ll be discussing here, keep in mind that they may not have had access to this material. We hope that you will share the resources rather than dismissing or criticizing them for what you may perceive as ignorance. This is particularly important if you are cisgender and the person you might be inclined to criticize is trans.
  5. Recognize that it’s different for cisgender and transgender people to participate in this group. A stealth trans person may have to hide the fact that they are attending at all. A trans person may feel self-conscious sitting in a public space and reading about trans issues in a way that gender typical cisgender people may not. Perhaps most importantly, many trans person think about being trans all the time. Taking additional time to focus on trans issues and having to read about the oppression of trans people can be emotionally taxing. There are plenty of trans people who are probably not even in this room because of issues such as these.
  6. It is not the responsibility of transgender people to educate cisgender people. Recounting experiencing transphobia can be cathartic and also be like experiencing it all over again, which is why trans people should not be forced to share such stories. Similarly, there should not be a different standard applied to trans people when it comes to asking about gentials, medical procedures, or sex lives.
  7. If a term is used that you do not understand, please feel free to ask for a definition, but be aware of the difference between simply saying “I don’t understand” and refusing to acknowledge concepts that you disagree with or challenging someone else’s experience.

Why we do names & pronouns

When we go around at the beginning to check in, state your name and the pronouns you prefer, or state that you have no preference or that you prefer no pronouns be used. You can change your name or pronoun at any time.

We do this because you can’t tell someone’s pronoun by looking at them.

  • Please use the pronoun people request. If you mess up, correct yourself.
  • Some people think no one should ever use pronouns, but at the same time many people find being referred to by the pronoun of their choice empowering.
  • Please avoid using unnecessarily gendered language—referring to all people (not just trans people) as “people” rather than men and women is a good place to start.

 Ground Rules (as determined at the first meeting)

 Confidentiality – you may not tell others who attends or share people’s personal stories. General information may be shared. You can always ask an individual for specific permission to share their story.

Do not assume that just because someone is out in the room, they are openly trans elsewhere, so do not out anyone as trans. Always ask for permission to share contact info.

Do not acknowledge other people if you run into them elsewhere other than perhaps making eye contact. If you need to explain how you know someone one, saying they are a friend of a friend is always an option.

People will raise their hands & the facilitators will take stack.

Notice if you are talking a lot and step back. If you have things you want to say, step up.

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