Category: Trans Community and Politics

Telling Stories

Tonight at group we had a guest- a curator doing research for a potential show. His concept will, in the end, share the stories of a dozen or so trans people. It’s a great idea, so much so that I don’t want to share too many details here and possibly ruin it all or have the concept taken out from under him. Tonight, he came to meet us, as a community. He wants to ascertain if the project would be of benefit to the community, and if so, how can that be maximized. So, I of course have been thinking about trans stories and what they mean. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I have some ideas to share.

There is, of course, a very obvious benefit to sharing trans stories, and that is the benefit of normalizing trans-ness. It’s one of my big personal missions- make it clear to mainstream society that trans is normal, everywhere, and nothing to be afraid of. You know us, even if you don’t think you do. Maybe we’re out there, “passing”, and you don’t realize we’re trans; we’re just doing our shopping or putting gas in our car. Maybe we’re in the closet and not yet willing or able to tell you that we’re trans. Either way, you know us. Sharing our stories helps underscore that. It helps humanize us in the eyes of those who don’t yet understand. It’s the obvious benefit because it’s a very important one.

But there’s also the benefit to those within the community, as well. All of our stories are unique, and yet there are common themes throughout. We need to know each other, because we need to see how we connect. It makes us stronger as a community. And, on a more personal note, we need to have as many stories as possible out there for those who would find themselves in them. As some of you have read here in other posts, I came to my understanding late in life, and one of the things that I had to get through first was realizing that that wasn’t unusual. I doubted I was trans, because I had never been exposed to a narrative like mine- didn’t really know, didn’t figure it out until it was mentioned to me. I needed to see other people having gone through similar awakenings before I could accept mine for what it was. So, we need as many stories out there in every format and platform possible, so those coming to understand who they are can see they aren’t alone. Despite the uniqueness of each trans story, those commonalities are what we need to find to pull ourselves into the community and realization- a literal lifeline.

So, as I drove home tonight, this is what I thought. I figured this was the main crux of the whole deal. Problem solved, here’s your benefit, welcome to our community, thanks for your support and interest, let’s get your project going . . .

And then, having single-handedly solved this nice young man’s problem, I set my mind to summarizing the noteworthy events of the evening, as my partner was certainly wanting to hear what she missed. I thought about person A and her having run out of minutes on her phone because she fell asleep with a call connected. I thought about person B and their struggle to communicate with unsupportive parents and how we’ve talked about their options. I thought about person C and his search for a better job. I thought about the group of us who went to dinner together after the meeting and the things we talked about- new phones, struggling to pay rent, damn this is good chicken, and did you see that movie yet? And that’s when it hit me.

Trans stories are people stories, and all too often we’re so worried about the trans part of the story that we sort of neglect the people part.

And we NEED that part. When we talk about trans stories we think about realizations and transitions and the struggles therein. We don’t talk about the every day life stuff. We don’t talk about the stuff that makes us people. Not trans people- just people. And maybe we need to stop that. Maybe when we tell our trans stories, we need to tell more than the trans parts. Maybe we’d more fully normalize trans-ness if we make just as much of a deal about the human part. Maybe we’d find more commonality amongst ourselves. Maybe we’d touch someone- not with what we say about dysphoria or transition decisions or identity, but with the fact that we come from this place, or have that interest, or any number of aspects of ourselves beyond being trans.

So, hold up, new friend. I take it back. I’ve got a different idea. What’s the benefit to telling trans stories? The same benefit to telling anyone else’s story- human stories. How do we maximize that benefit? Help us tell the WHOLE story.

Because I’m not Kelli, the kind of extra, somewhat domineering, but definitely mothering trans woman.

I’m Kelli, the heart patient who spent time in academia and IT and plays guitar and loves to cook and has these awesome kids and mostly gets along with her parents and is a kind of extra, somewhat domineering, but definitely mothering woman who geeks out for Star Wars and Marvel and Doctor Who, tells corny jokes and bad puns, and happens to be trans.

And as a footnote, it’s OK if your main thing is “being trans”. That’s AWESOME. I am so glad for you that you have your thing. Because we are all who we are, and that’s my point. That’s the story to tell.


BDSM & The Trans Community 

Thanks to gross misrepresentation in popular culture (due in large part to the deplorable “50 Shades” franchise), the long maligned and misunderstood aspects of human behavior known as BDSM/”kink” are lately even less understood. To the average person, the mere mention of BDSM conjures up images of violence and abuse. While it might be easier for practitioners to simply hide their inclinations from the general public, I think this is problematic. Just as I feel there need to be representatives of the trans community putting themselves into the public eye to normalize “trans-ness”, so too does the BDSM/kink community need such representatives. Not only is the misrepresentation of this approach to life, love, and sexual expression unfair, but in the right circumstances, certain elements of BDSM and BDSM relationships can actually be helpful tools in processing and coping with some of the issues many trans people experience. I intend here to touch on just a few, to give those with minimal exposure to the actual practice of BDSM an idea of the possible beneficial roles healthy BDSM can play in the lives of those inclined to explore it. This approach will focus on the BDSM lifestyle, not actual sexual activities. While these can be and often are an integral part of a BDSM relationship, it is not necessary to include them in such a discussion, and in reality I feel would even distract from my purpose. Throughout this piece, I will make reference to BDSM concepts by their known parlance in the community. A brief explanation of these abbreviations and terms will follow.

One of the first things I’m often asked when I reveal that I’m a Dominant is about my gender identity and power roles. The public (including many in the trans community) tend to think of women in general and trans women specifically as naturally submissive. Add to the fact that my chosen gender presentation is unabashedly “traditionally femme”, and people are often caught off guard when they discover that I’m a Domme. While this clearly points out problematic assumptions about gender identity and gender roles, on a more personal scale it’s easily understandable. I, too, asked myself the same questions during my self-discovery and early transition. Am I still a Dominant? What’s the difference between Dom and Domme, really? How much of what I think is my natural inclinations towards dominance is really me, and how much is just the (toxic) masculinity I adopted when playing that role for so many decades? This was a very important part of my coming to terms with being trans, and I almost lost myself in it. There are precious few resources that address these concerns.

Further questioning of assumed power dynamics in regards to gender identification, from within the BDSM community, illuminates another point that I think worthy of note. The concept of “Femme Domme” or feminine/female domination is deeply connected to many aspects of BDSM, both in intimate practice and in lifestyle. Within the community, women who are interested in expressing dominance are highly sought after, by men and women alike- even moreso if they have considerable experience doing so. There are myriad sub-types of domination, many totally removed from the bedroom or bedroom analogue.  What does this say about what society seems to expect of women, versus what a large, but hidden, portion of society openly pursues and praises? How does this affect how we as trans people should view ourselves as we struggle through our personal journeys of discovery? Is there a case to be made for indulging in one’s inclinations towards dominance in this way, in order to freely express one’s self without fear of being judged for not conforming to societal expectations?

Some practices within BDSM seem to be purely of the bedroom-analogue type, but actually extend into the life of the practitioners. One such practice is known as “forced chastity”, where a mechanical device is used to restrict access to the genitals. Those who engage in forced chastity tend to be submissives, although I do know of some “switch” couples who practice mutual forced chastity. The people I’ve talked to that engage in this practice talk often of the feeling of disconnect they have because of the device. The restriction is symbolic of the power they have elected to give their Dominant over themselves and their bodies; it reminds them that those parts do not “belong to them” anymore. The specifics of how this plays out in practice varies from couple to couple, but the idea of this disconnect is common. This leads one immediately to think of genital dysphoria, suffered by numerous trans people who feel their genitals are “wrong”. Could this be a tool to lessen that distress? Properly managed by a caring dominant, it seems this idea of separation can be enhanced and channeled. The dysphoric person who wishes to not have those genitals might find some comfort in the idea that even though still physically attached, those offending parts aren’t theirs anymore. And, if they aren’t theirs, then they certainly can’t define them. It’s not clear how effective this might be on a broad scale, but this is an example of how combining concepts of BDSM with challenges faced by trans people might yield possible solutions worthy of further consideration. My limited experience and discussion with members of both groups imply a lot of promise, but these discussions won’t ever happen without bringing these groups together for that purpose.

The most interesting overlap between BDSM and being trans, to me, is the idea of D/s relationships as a healthy analogue of and surrogate for a failed relationship with an authority figure, such as when a trans person is rejected by parents or family. This is a sadly widespread experience in the trans community, and many practitioners of BDSM openly admit to finding comfort in their relationships as a replacement for the lost approval and support of their parents or other such figures of authority.  The benefits here should be obvious, provided the submissive finds a healthy relationship with a good and caring Dominant¹.

And that last bit is key to why these types of communication and support are so badly needed. There are predators in the world, and the BDSM community might just have more than their share. Potential practitioners of BDSM are going to find the community one way or another. Certain aspects of BDSM (“gender play” being the most glaringly obvious) are tailor-made for the gender-questioning, and one could throw a beach ball at a trans support group and probably bounce it off of a dozen people who have already had at least *some* exposure to BDSM through such practice. Ignoring the overlap between gender-questioning and BDSM/kink is like abstinence sex ed- we do nothing and get the exact results we should expect from doing nothing. BDSM is NOT for everyone, and no honest supporter of such would say so, but creating a safe and open resource for folks who are questioning, or even engaged in the practice or lifestyle who just want to work through issues, should be considered a necessary part of community support. When the idea of a BDSM support group for trans people was first suggested to me, my initial thought was “Well, if it’s done right, I’d be part of that” and that was the end of my thoughts about it. But the more time has gone on, and the more my name has been tossed around with the idea, the more people have approached me about it. This is a need. The community wants this, and the community needs this.  BDSM is about choice, communication, and consent, and those drawn to it will universally extoll how it has positively impacted their lives. Just as the popular narratives regarding trans people are misinformed and false, so too are the narratives regarding BDSM and its practitioners. If we owe it to our community to help correct the popular misunderstanding of one, then logically we owe the same for the other.


  1. This concept can apply in reverse, as well. A Dominant trans person may have been cut off from their children (either by wish of the children or action of the other parent). A D/s relationship can serve as a surrogate and outlet for those parental instincts, potentially providing the Dominant with a way to come to terms with that situation


BDSM– An overlapping acronym representing 3 different concepts- Bondage & Discipline, Dominance/submission, and Sado-Masochism. While each of these 3 concepts are distinct, there is often overlap between them. The first and last focus largely on practice and physical expressions of intimacy; the middle concept tends to be more about how participants choose to structure their personal relationships, be it short-term or long, physical or emotional, or combinations thereof.

Consent– The backbone of all BDSM interaction. Participants agree beforehand what is not permissible (“hard limits”), what is permissible or even desired, and in some cases areas the participants wish to explore that may still be uncomfortable to them (“soft limits”). In some cases, “soft limit” is used to describe when a submissive participant wishes to be “pushed past” that limit- having an experience they think they desire but may be reluctant to try.

Dom/Domme/Dominant– A person who takes a dominant role in a BDSM relationship or scenario. While it’s not an official distinction, the label Dominatrix usually implies one who does so in a professional capacity. These are the masculine, feminine and gender-neutral forms respectively. When used to describe a specific individual, it is usually capitalized.

D/s– Dominance/submission. In this form it is usually used to describe a relationship, where the participants have opted to structure their power dynamic strongly towards the Dominant. There are varying degrees of immersion into this type of relationship.

Dynamic– a blanket term used to describe the specific nature of and agreements within a particular BDSM relationship.  Most commonly applied to a D/s relationship.

Gender play – A fetish subset of BDSM practice wherein participants present as a gender other than their own to varying degrees; such presentation may be restricted to private space, but possibly also in public. The exact expression and particulars of this vary from dynamic to dynamic, in some cases being described as “forced”, although this is a misnomer as such play would have been consented to initially between the participants. There is an overlap between gender play and a desire for or interest in degradation/humiliation which is considered problematic by many transgender people.

Submissive (“sub”)- A person who takes a submissive role in a BDSM relationship or scenario.

Switch– A person who identifies as both Dominant and submissive. A switch may swap roles with the same person, or play different roles in different dynamics/relationships.

TPE (aka “24/7” or “24/7 TPE”)- Total Power Exchange. A level of D/s relationship where nearly all decisions are made by the Dominant.  This sort of relationship, in order to remain healthy, requires deep trust between the participants, a mutual understanding of their individual needs, and constant communication. While such situations could be potentially abusive, participants in healthy TPE relationships report relief from anxiety, confusion, depression, and lethargy. By taking control of aspects of life planning and simple decision making, the Dominant frees the submissive from the mental anguish that might be felt from such tasks as basic as simple time management to what to have for dinner. Such relationships can be long or short term, and are as different as those who choose to practice them. As with all aspects of BDSM, consent and communication are key, and all aspects of a TPE dynamic are clearly laid out by and between both parties. Practitioners who choose to make their dynamic long term and celebrate with a ceremony often exchange contracts outlining their responsibilities to each other, their mutual goals, and hard limits.


I Grow Weary . . .

I really want to be a meaningful part of the LGBT community. I have always been driven to community service in one way or another, and I have skills and talents as a speaker and organizer. I *should* be involved. It’s a natural fit for me.

But, man, some of y’all make it HARD. I’ve decided to think of some of the people I’m encountering as “electrons” . . . they’re totally negative and always follow the same path. Some of them are very strongly bonded to those paths. And, yes, it even seems like some are drawn to me. It’s frustrating. I want to help these poor electrons, but they just sap so much energy. I am compelled to intervene, but I am so tired of beating my head against brick walls. All the little electrons trigger my Mothering instinct and drive, and yet my misanthropy (my own negativity, to extend the metaphor) pushes me away.

Your Religious Freedom Stops At The Door Of Your Church

I recently lost what I thought was one of my dearest friends because of my belief that decent people stand up for others. She didn’t think so. She thought that if it doesn’t affect you, then there is no moral reason to care. I disagree. I think most decent people disagree. I think, above all, the people who claim to be part of a religion of love, that praise the love their God has for them as seen in the sending of his own progeny to help guide them, MUST certainly be called to stand up to wrong. To stand up to evil and injustice. To stand up to discrimination.

I’m tired of letting people pretend that their religion not just allows but IMPLORES them to discriminate, to ostracize, and to hate. You are free to hate. Be an asshole all you want, but don’t pretend it’s because of your religion. It’s because you’re a horrible person. Allowing you to bring negative consequences to bear against someone who you have decided doesn’t measure up to your idea of your religion isn’t “religious freedom”. It’s forcing your religion.

The funny thing is, so many of the “religious freedom” crowd are also the first to shout down any *other* religion. They throw pork at mosques. They complain about “the Zionist plot”. It’s not OK for those religions to be free; just theirs.

And you let them. It’s not the vocal minority that I blame . . . it’s the silent Christian majority. This is being done in *your name*. The federal government made it legal for health care practitioners and workers to refuse to treat *MY* people because of *THEIR* and most importantly *YOUR* religion. You have a choice. You can continue to say nothing, and let it get worse, or you can open your mouth and scream your opposition. See, our screams don’t matter. Our screams come from “sick and twisted” “confused people” with “pathetic delusions”.  We are the abominations. But you . . . you are their power, because they act in your name and they get away with it because you don’t say otherwise. For the love of the God you believe so loved this world that he gave up his own son, say something. Say it clear, and say it loud, because my people’s very lives are at stake.

No practitioner of any religion has the right to harm because their religion says so (and yours doesn’t even say that, but that’s another post). If you believe they do, we are not friends. If you believe it’s OK for you to say nothing while this happens, we are not friends. And maybe this is me “immersing myself in a world that has me out of touch with the reality the rest of [you] live in”. But I don’t care. If you’re not willing to say something on my behalf, we are not friends. Because that is what it means to care about, support, and be a friend of someone.

If you have an LGBT friend and you don’t speak out about this to any and everyone who will listen, you’re a fraud. And we are not friends.

How To Be An Ally, and Mean It

I want to make it clear that I am in no way trying to diminish the importance of the support I have received since coming out and going full-time. The words of encouragement from friends and family mean the world to me and have helped me immensely.

But I’d trade it all for this.

Trans people don’t need you to tell us you’re proud of us, or you admire us. Trans people don’t need you to tell us we’re brave. Trans people don’t need you to tell us we “look great” or anything of the sort. It’s really, really nice to hear those things, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not what we need.

Trans people need you to stand up for us when we aren’t around. Trans people need you to advocate not just with us, but on our behalf when we’re not being listened to anymore. When we are judged and pushed out and ostracized from a group simply for making the excruciating decision to come out, we need you who are left behind to make a big deal about it. We need you to stand up to transphobia and hate and fear. We need you to care not just about us as people, but the environment in which we have to exist. We need you to care about the trans people who can’t come out yet, or may never be able to come out. We need you to say something to the people who snicker and scoff behind our backs. We need you to be as brave as you say we are.

It’s easy to support trans rights when you’re trans- you’re already being judged, so might as well own that shit. And of course, when someone who wishes to stand against us hears our calls for equality, they fall on deaf ears, because we are seen as less, as freaks, as aberrant or deranged. But when you stand up on our behalf, it means something very different. When ever someone outside a marginalized minority stands up for them, it means more to those who look at us from the outside and cringe. It’s harder to rationalize away. It’s significant.

That’s what we need.

Trans Women and “Male Privilege”

There are a lot of things on which the trans community disagrees. One such thing relates to the concept of “male privilege”. As trans women, we live part of our lives as if we were men- at least until we figure it out and do something about it. As such, some folks think that trans women benefit from “male privilege”- the inherent societal advantages that come with being perceived as male. In fact, many TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists)/ “gender critical scholars” use this claim as part of their position that trans women aren’t “real women”. Conversely, others point out that trans women are certainly not perceived as being “male” in the sense that cis men are, and are far from privileged in any way (especially in the case of trans women of color, who have shockingly high assault/murder rates).

I’m going to assert that the confusion and disagreement over privilege stems from the fact that privilege is not a singular thing, but rather can be divided into what I call “internal” and “external” privilege. This not only serves to unpack and elucidate issues of privilege as it can pertain to trans women, but carries important implications on how we can address issues of privilege in the way we raise our children.

There is no doubt that (unfortunately), most children being raised as male in our society are taught to have very different expectations than those being raised female. The extent may differ, and there are certainly those who struggle to minimize such things in their own children, but in general, boys grow up expecting to be listened to when they speak, for example. Many women will freely report that such expectations were not ingrained in them. Even if we work to minimize projecting “gender roles” as parents, we live in a society that imprints such things on our children despite our efforts. So, boys grow up thinking certain things about their relation to people around them that girls likely do not. It is these ideas about one’s place in society that informs the position that trans women carry their “male privilege” with them through social transition. If you are raised to believe that you have a place in conversation and generally control your own situation (to varying extents in relation to other marginalizing factors like class or ethnicity), you retain those ideas even as you present as the woman that you have always been. This, they say, makes trans women fundamentally different from cis women, and they therefore experience the intangible benefits of this privilege. This sense of using the term privilege, note, is purely internal. It is about the way people think, act, and see themselves, and so I here label it “internal privilege”.

“External privilege” is exactly what one would assume in light of this- the privilege realized from the way others see and act towards us. We have little to no control over external privilege- others treat us how they treat us. Classic examples of external male privilege include such events as women being ignored in group conversations or business meetings, or even the casual nature with which sexual harassment occurs. Men are far less likely to experience these events than woman are.

It should not take much convincing to demonstrate that trans women don’t experience external privilege. In fact, it could easily be argued that without total “passing” (yet another privilege), trans women are even lesser considered than cis women. This would be the crux of the objection to the idea that trans women continue to experience male privilege, and I think it significant enough to reject the claim. Trans women do not benefit from male privilege, because this external privilege is far more impactful on one’s life, options, and even safety, than the internal privilege that may have been acquired before social transition. We could go even further and point out that depending on just what sort of upbringing one had, how one identified throughout their pre-discovery life, and even how soon a trans woman recognizes that she’s trans, will all have an impact on her views and attitudes about herself in relation to society. It’s entirely possible for a trans woman to present male for a significant portion of her life and *not* acquire the self-identification that we are here associating with internal male privilege.

But this also points out something about privilege. Internal privilege is *learned*. We raise our boys in ways that enforce these ideas. So, we could just as easily raise our daughters with the same concepts of self. If part of the experience of being on either side of privilege is internal and related to how we see ourselves, we can teach ALL our children such things. We can raise our girls to expect a seat at the table, and we can raise our boys to expect girls to take their seats. I would even go so far as to argue that external privilege grows out of internal privilege- people project the values they have onto their interactions, and create the atmosphere in which they live. No matter where we fall in relation to this demarcation of privilege, we subconciously contribute to it unless we actively work against it.

No offense meant, but . . .

I’m not a very politically correct transgender woman. I had a hard time connecting with most of the trans people I met in the Reddit forums when I started seeking out information for my impending journey. They mostly seemed young, thin, and fairly liberal leaning in their politics. They worry a lot about offense and hurt feelings.

And I get it. A lifetime of little micro-aggressions is like being bit by mosquitoes perpetually for your whole life- one bite is nothing, but the psychological toll of never-ending bites is just excruciating. I *totally* get that.

But that sort of thing makes me defiant. It makes me want to take on every mosquito out there, as well as the blackflies and the chiggers and the yellowjackets and the scorpions and spiders and and and I’ve probably taken this analogy too far. But the point is, my response is to fight. Yes, I recognize that I might have the inclination and ability to do that because I *didn’t* have so many mosquito bites, but I don’t think that matters, because I’m not telling people to ignore their mosquitos. I’m saying I want to kill EVERYONE’s mosquitos and if you can help, rock on with your self and get the fuck in here. If you can’t, take a knee. We got this.

It’s why I LOVE that T-word slur people throw at us. I revel in it. Yes, that one. NO, I’m not gonna say it here because it *does* upset some people, but for me it’s a badge of honor. It’s taking what they try to insult me with and throwing it back in their faces. I own it. I strut in it. I take it as a mantle to represent every other woman who was cut down by it. Fuck you, fuck your silly words. I’m stronger than your words.

I’ve been doing more hiding than fighting until recently. I had some good excuses, maybe some of them even valid. But while my gender is not what I used to think it was, my spirit and character remain unchanged. I’m just way more fucking fabulous now.