Ep. 29 Lou Weaver - Respect, Dignity, and Access for Houston's Transgender and Non-Binary Community
Podcast episode available here.
Lou Weaver 0:00
***radio effect on voice*** But I think if back we up just a minute we talk about our gender identity, our sex assigned at birth, our gender expression, and our sexual orientation. All of these things are wrapped together and each and every person owns that. So many people forget that being straight or heterosexual is a sexual orientation. Being cisgender is a gender identity, no matter what your gender expression is, you have one.
Rob Icsezen 0:35
What's up Houston! Welcome to H-Town Progressive, Houston's impenetrable fortress of progressive thought! I'm your host, Rob Icsezen!.
My name is Rob and I use he/him/his pronouns. And if you're wondering why I would state my pronouns as part of an introduction, listen up, you're going to learn something during this episode.
The gender binary is something that we in Houston in 2019 are all born into. At birth, we're assigned a sex based on our physical parts, which may or may not naturally conform to the binary. Regardless, all babies are assigned male or female. Then immediately from the day we're born, and sometimes even before (think pink or blue baby bedrooms), we're further divided into culturally defined gender groups through the colors, the clothing, the activities, and many, many other things like who were allowed to love, that are all thrust upon us. Your external expression is genderized and you're forced to identify with one set of genderized expressions over another. And often, these are things we might not even really think about.
That is unless we don't fit the binary. If you don't fit the binary, you understand very quickly, that you must conform by abandoning or suppressing your own identity, or, if you don't conform, things are going to be really difficult for you. And what this is, is society telling us how to define ourselves. There are two boxes, you must fit into one or the other. And if you don't, too bad, your identity is not going to be recognized. There won't be a bubble for you on that standardized test. And while many don't ever think about this, you are going to be forced to think about it every day of your life.
It doesn't take long to understand that this phenomenon, the practice of forced genderizing is straight up abuse, its oppression. And it's a function of the masculine dominated power structure that has, throughout history, fostered abominations like chattel slavery. A lot of folks in politics talk about individualism well, forced genderizing is perhaps the height of anti-individualism.
If you're nodding your head right now, you might have experienced this oppression firsthand. You're going to be nodding your head a lot during this episode.
But if you're confused, skeptical or even hostile to what I've just laid out, you are going to learn something during this episode.
It can be difficult to free yourself of the shackles of indoctrination that we're all born to and Houston and 2019. But if you care about dignity, if you care about respect, if you care about equality for all:
You must listen!
You must learn!
And then, most importantly, you must act!
Today our guest is someone who has dedicated his life to action and breaking those shackles. Lou Weaver is a queer transgender man and a leader in Houston's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. Lou is Equality Texas foundation's (https://www.equalitytexas.org/) Transgender Programs Coordinator and the Co-Director of TransFORWARD-Creating Culturally Competent Transgender Health (https://transforward.texashealthinstitute.org/). He's the first transgender Programs Coordinator for Equality Texas Foundation and works to elevate the voices of transgender Texans through innovative programs like the Texas TransVisible Project (https://www.equalitytexas.org/our-programs/transvisibleproject/), a first of its kind public education campaign telling the stories of transgender Texans.
It's my honor to welcome to the show today, Lou Weaver!
Lou, welcome to H-Town Progressive.
Lou Weaver 4:27
Good morning. Thanks for having me.
Rob Icsezen 4:28
Well, it's great to have you on the show today. Let's just jump right into it. I am- I think we should start at the very beginning because a lot of people are pretty ignorant of LGBTQIA+ issues, and specifically, transgender and nonbinary people issues. So let's start just by defining what is transgender? What is non binary?
Lou Weaver 4:49
Sure, I think, obviously, language matters. And language is important. So if we can set the the ground floor here for how we're going to talk about this: transgender people are people who was sex, was identified at birth as one gender or one sex and who know themselves to be another one. So very stereotypically a baby is defined on whether or not they have a penis. So penis, they are told that they're male, lack of penis, they're told that they're a woman. And many people around the ages of two or three, seven or eight, or whenever in their life, their brains will tell them other things. And so when we think about when we first knew whether we were a boy or a girl, or a man or a woman, our brains are giving us signals. Sometimes we don't have the language to express that. So a transgender man, like myself, was told at birth, my parents were told that I was a little girl. I was not able to verbalize that very well when I was growing up. And so I didn't come out as a transgender man until I was 38. But I've known for a very long time that I was different, that things weren't quite right, that things didn't fit for me. And so a transgender woman is somebody who because of an appearance of a penis, they were told they were a man and their brains are telling them, No, you're a girl, you're a woman. So you know, but that's also very binary. That's also one or the other. Non binary folks, and I'm not a non-binary person, so if I get this wrong, please excuse me. But basically they're saying, I don't identify with this binary, male or female. I'm both, I'm neither, I'm something altogether, right? Because binary for aren't- for the past hundred or so years here in the United States we've had a very binary world. And it might have gone back further than that, but also the way that we think about gender has changed so much in the way that people are supposed to express their gender.
Rob Icsezen 6:41
Lou Weaver 6:42
And I say that because that is everything that ma- that is lining up the way that transgender non-binary folks and even gays and lesbians or somebody outside of the binary is poked at and made fun of or called out because we're different and we're not following in, into these little boxes of you must look like this: Ken Doll, Thor, whatever, to be man.
Rob Icsezen 7:05
Lou Weaver 7:05
And over here for Barbie Doll or Beyonce to be a woman. And most of us don't fit in those two boxes, most of us are somewhere inbetween. But how do we identify ourselves? And let's be real, these labels matter to ourselves. I am a transgender man. That's my label. I am a queer transgender man and I own that. And so making sure that people get to identify and tell us how they feel, who they are, is super important.
Rob Icsezen 7:29
Yeah. And so that that's, that's very helpful. And I, I'm curious to hear what you have to say about this. Because I, doing some reading about this, I sort of saw that there's kind of three breakdowns here. There's what you mentioned: sex assignment at birth, is literally they look at your body parts, and they they label you.
Lou Weaver 7:48
Rob Icsezen 7:48
You're literally labeled based on your body, body parts.
Lou Weaver 7:52
Rob Icsezen 7:52
That has nothing to do with who you are as a person or anything in your head. It's just whether or not you have a penis or a vagina, period.
Lou Weaver 7:59
Rob Icsezen 8:00
Then there's your gender identity. That is much deeper, that's harder to identify. I mean, that's why we, I think, have all these different markers. Because gender identity really, it's, it's in your head, it's it goes to the core of your humanity, along with many of the other identities that we share, which are, I think, also hard to pin down. What does it mean to be an American? What does it mean to be a particular nationality or race even, you know?
Lou Weaver 8:27
Or even a religion! How do we know that we own these things? Right. And I think that that goes to like, sexual orientation. For many, many years, people thought somebody would choose to be gay or lesbian. We don't choose that. We just are that. And it's hard for people that aren't something else to understand that, right? We don't understand how somebody is a Muslim, if somebody is a Christian, and we don't understand how somebody's gay, if we're not. It's taken a long time, I would say probably only the past, you know five years maybe, and that's when we, you know, the Obergefell laws (https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/obergefell-v-hodges/), we have same sex marriage, that people are understanding what it means to be gay or lesbian. And maybe they don't really understand it, but they have come to respect it. Because right now, 87% of the population knows an out gay or lesbian person. They're our friends, they're our families, they're our co-workers, they go to church with us, all of these types of things. So it's not like I have to understand what it's like to be gay or lesbian, although I do, I come from that world, I am in that world. But I can see that they're just like me, right. They want to provide for their family, they want to worship, they want to, you know, do whatever in their homes. They want the same things that I want, and we can understand that. And now transgender people, non-binary people are being more talked about in social circles. Laverne Cox was on the, the cover of TIME Magazine in 2014 (https://time.com/132769/transgender-orange-is-the-new-black-laverne-cox-interview/), and they said, that's the transgender tipping point. I'm not gonna say it was a tipping point. I think it definitely was a point on an arc. I can't call it a tipping point, because she was the first transgender woman, first transgender woman of color that was out and on a national magazine. That showed us so many different things. Was it a tipping point to being people like me, people like her, being in public? Yes, but there's so much more that we need from a tipping point. But what it did was it brought transgender people into the mainstream where we can start having conversations. But still, for people who have never had to think twice about whether or not they were a boy or a girl or a man or a woman, it's such a hard thing for them to make that move to. And so the only way that people start to understand it, or start to respect it, or at least be like, okay, whatever, is when they have somebody that's in their life.
Rob Icsezen 10:38
Lou Weaver 10:38
Whether it's a child came out, their best friend, or however- or themselves of like, Hey, I'm starting to wonder, like, maybe I don't have to fit into these strict binary roles that I've always thought and always attempted to comply with. Because non-binary can also be a cisgender, so a non transgender person, a non transgender woman who I want to talk about, who enjoys wearing men's suits.
Rob Icsezen 11:02
Lou Weaver 11:03
That doesn't make her trans. It doesn't make her non-binary, I mean, to an extent, her gender expression is non-binary.
Rob Icsezen 11:09
Lou Weaver 11:09
Right. And so that's another way too. But also, let's be clear, it doesn't make her a lesbian. Not all masculine identified women are lesbians, and not all feminine identified men are gay.
Rob Icsezen 11:19
Well, and that's that's a really interesting point, because when you say they're not lesbian or not gay, that that I feel like that's a really constrictive - those words, tend to be very constrictive - because they define the gender expression through who you love. But there are so many other ways to express yourself! Who you love is, it's kind of hypersexualized, it's as if our gender must be sexualized. It must be inextricably tied with who you're attracted to, who you choose to love.
Lou Weaver 11:48
Rob Icsezen 11:48
But gender expression is everywhere. I mean it's, the type of clothes you wear, the type of things you like to do from being athletic, which is historically masculinized...
Lou Weaver 11:48
Rob Icsezen 11:55
...to to wearing, you know, flowy outfits, which are feminized, or
Lou Weaver 12:05
It's to the types of drinks we have! I used to work at Starbucks, and when we talk about a grande skinny sugar free vanilla latte with two Splenda, we were like, Oh! girl drink! Right.
Rob Icsezen 12:16
Lou Weaver 12:16
It's not a girl drink. It's a drink! Or a diet drink...
Rob Icsezen 12:19
Right! or a drink with umbrellas or something. [laughing]
Lou Weaver 12:20
Right! everything. Everything in our world is gendered. We don't realize it so much with the English language with our American language. But definitely in other languages, anything derived from Latin, is gendered in everything they speak. Whether it's the table, the pencil, things like that. It, but you know, gendering things, is something that we're going to, I believe, we're going to see a definite move away from - and how it happens all the time with children with long hair or no hair. You know, that's why we put little girls or little babies that, toddlers that have a vagina, we put something pink and purple and sparkly into their hair so that signals that they're a little girl.
Rob Icsezen 12:59
Lou Weaver 13:00
Why is that important? Why is it so important to have these labels? And like I said earlier, sometimes these labels are incredibly important. And sometimes they're not. But I think it has to go back to like, it's all about evolution, right? It's like friend or foe. I immediately have to know whether or not you're in my tribe, and whether or not I'm safe with you. But the way that we make it so how we interact with people can be so damaging. But I think that we, if we back up just a minute and we talk about our gender identity, our sex assigned at birth, our gender expression, and our sexual orientation. All of these things are wrapped together, and each and every person owns that. So many people forget that being straight or heterosexual is a sexual orientation. Being cisgender is a gender identity. No matter what your gender expression is, you have one! What did you wear when you got up this morning? How are you showing the world how you feel about yourself?
Rob Icsezen 13:54
Lou Weaver 13:54
Are- did you have to put on a shirt and tie to go to work? Did you have to put on heels and a jacket? What do these things mean? And each and every one of us, whether we think about it consciously or not, we're making decisions based on something. And that's something is how do we feel about ourselves.
Rob Icsezen 14:08
Yea. And that that sort of outward expression of your, what's inside, that manifests itself in a lot of different places. Like, like me personally, when I wear a big bushy beard, like I kind of have right now, I look like my Turkish background. People associate with me, Middle Eastern guy.
Lou Weaver 14:27
Rob Icsezen 14:27
You know. If I, if I shave the beard, I might be Italian or something I might be you know, Western European, people don't really know. And one of my good black friends has said, Yeah Rob Well, I shave my beard, I'm still black.
Lou Weaver 14:40
Rob Icsezen 14:41
Sometimes it's a choice. Sometimes it's not. But they're all expressions of something internal.
Lou Weaver 14:49
Right and to your friend's, you know, saying he's still black, right, it's, a gender expression is not necessarily the color of my skin, Right. My color of skin, like your friends said, that never changes. And that is something that people see straight off, of black. But if he or somebody who is Muslim has a longer beard and black, right, all of these different identities that we all can hold. We, and how do we manifest them? How do they show each of them? We show them out to the world every day. And that's what people are making that snap judge decision on. Where are you from? What do you look like? Why the long bushy beard? If I have a long bushy beard, and I've done trainings for Jewish teenagers, and out of respect, I own a kippah, and I will put that on out of respect for the culture where I am and being there. And they automatically assume I'm Jewish.
Rob Icsezen 15:34
Lou Weaver 15:35
I am not. I'm not opposed to being the thought that I'm Jewish. But I don't hold that identity. But because of how I am and how they perceive me, do they want me to be a member of my, their tribe? Do they want to say yes, you're one of us?
Rob Icsezen 15:46
Lou Weaver 15:47
So right. And so these these, these, it's a give and take, of are you like me? Are you not? And it can be so damaging. It's it's... Will Smith's son likes to wear dresses and skirts (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/jaden-smith-wear-dresses_n_5abbb1e1e4b03e2a5c78480e). And people say, Oh, you're wearing girls clothes? No. Right.
Rob Icsezen 16:02
Lou Weaver 16:03
He's wearing his clothes.
Rob Icsezen 16:04
He's wearing clothes, period.
Lou Weaver 16:05
He's wearing clothes. You know, it's, I point this out all the time. It's, gender expression changes depends on where we are and when we're there.
Rob Icsezen 16:12
Lou Weaver 16:13
So if we walk outside your door right now, we're in a nondescript suburb, not too far from the Galleria, which is a rich area of town, and not too far from the Montrose, which is predominantly the queer area town. But if we walk out and we see somebody that we think, perceived to be male, and they're wearing a skirt, what is our first thought?
Rob Icsezen 16:30
Lou Weaver 16:31
Would we think they're Scottish or Irish?
Rob Icsezen 16:33
Lou Weaver 16:34
Well, if that thing is plaid and a kilt, then he might be Scottish or Irish, right?
Rob Icsezen 16:37
Lou Weaver 16:37
If it's not, and then what? Do we think we've edged too close to the Montrose and that he's queer, he's gay, or something's wrong with him, or it's Halloween, or he's trans? And so it's all in that perception. If we were in Scotland, if that thing's plaid and a kilt then we're like, Oh yeah, masculine! Right? But not in this country.
Rob Icsezen 16:52
Lou Weaver 16:53
So where are we? When are we there?
Rob Icsezen 16:55
Yeah, exactly. And why did those things matter? What are these indicators, these markers? Why do they matter so much in how we structure our society? It's, sometimes they can be useful, as you said, sometimes they can be a tool of oppression.
Lou Weaver 17:10
Very much so a tool of oppression. And I agree that sometimes knowing, you know, is this somebody I can be safe with? Right. That's the friend or foe thing. Am I going to be safe talking to that person? I mean, I walk in here, I know that I'm going to be safe. We've had a conversation. I see rainbow flags, I see the books that you have out. I know, I already know this is a safe place for me to have this conversation and bring in my full self to. That is so important to me and to other transgender people, because we might not be able to bring our full selves. If you glance at me on the street, I am not visibly transgender. Am I visibly queer? If you get to talk to me, sure, absolutely. I talk with my hands. I, I'm more effeminate now than I've ever been in my entire life. Because I can be.
Rob Icsezen 17:54
Lou Weaver 17:54
And and how do I feel comfortable with myself? But it's, it's wondering whether or not - and I think it is definitely the systems of oppression and it's definitely misogyny and sexism that goes into homophobia and transphobia, of you're not fitting into this, and men are better than women.
Rob Icsezen 18:09
Lou Weaver 18:10
Most people don't like to say that, nobody likes to admit it, but that is what is homophobe- that is where homophobia comes from.
Rob Icsezen 18:15
Lou Weaver 18:16
It is definitely where, in our, my culture, as being in the queer culture, "bottom shaming" comes from, effemaphobia comes from... because we like things that are masculine. And I mean, we as a culture, not we as me and you or the, hopefully, the people listening to this. But we have to break this down and think about the ways that all of this is damaging, and it runs through the LGBTQ community, of how we oppress each other, how we are being oppressed, and why are we being oppressed.
Rob Icsezen 18:44
You know, it's fasc- you know, I think what you just said is so profound. Because if you really start thinking about it, it shows up everywhere, and it is a function of a misogynistic society. This, sometimes referred to I think, as toxic masculinity. But it's, you can see it in all kinds of uses of language. For example, a person who is assigned male who acts feminine is called a sissy. That's a really derogatory word. I mean, people fight over those, that word. Right, that's, you say that word people get really up in arms, chests puff out and you know, fists are thrown. A person assigned girl or female at birth who acts more masculine is called tomboy.
Lou Weaver 19:26
Rob Icsezen 19:27
Tomboy is almost celebrated. Oh, she's just a tomboy. Look what a great athlete she is, that's amazing! I got my girl- I got you know, a good relationship with my girl.
Lou Weaver 19:35
I didn't get a boy, but look what I got, just as good, right!
Rob Icsezen 19:37
Exactly. And that is, it's tomboy-ism is celebrated over sissy-ism.
Lou Weaver 19:42
Absolutely. And I talked about that a lot, because I grew up as a tomboy.
Rob Icsezen 19:45
Lou Weaver 19:47
I followed my older brother around everywhere. I'm not really good at sports, but I love sports. And I like to play them, I like to watch them. And I think that's one of the reasons that in my generation, and not growing up with "The Google" and other things like that, that it was much different to grow up as a tomboy and being celebrated and being okay to express masculinity even though I was identifying as a woman or a girl, because I didn't know I had other options. Even though I knew something didn't fit right. But I I kind of thought all tomboy's felt like me, more masculine and all these other things. And some do, some don't, some transition, some don't, right. Versus the difference between a "sissy boy" right? I was celebrated versus they had the sissy beat out of them.
Rob Icsezen 20:29
Lou Weaver 20:29
And and we don't talk about that enough. And you know, and we see it every day. We see it in the language that coaches use, you know, Oh, you throw like a girl!
Rob Icsezen 20:38
Lou Weaver 20:38
Sorry, why is that a bad thing?
Rob Icsezen 20:40
Lou Weaver 20:41
I would love to throw like the girl who won the Little League World Series, I can't think of her name right now (Mo'ne Davis: https://www.si.com/more-sports/2014/08/19/mone-davis-little-league-world-series-sports-illustrated-cover), two years ago. You know, she pitched her team to a World Series. It's not a bad thing. You, you're slower than my grandmother! Right, so it's a, you know equating thing- anything that is feminine or woman as inherently bad, is so toxic.
Rob Icsezen 21:01
Lou Weaver 21:03
And celebrating manhood, like, we can celebrate men. But why are we not celebrating women? And it's so bad that it's, it goes into what people want to wear, the way people dress, their mannerisms, mocking people for for being different.
Rob Icsezen 21:19
Lou Weaver 21:21
Hopefully, I have strong hopes that we are going to move away from this but we... when social media and media in general tell us things over and over again, [laughing] I don't know if you remember "Dr. Pepper 10" that came out like five or six years ago (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7Dcoer2oxA).
Rob Icsezen 21:37
Oh yeah! [laughing]
Lou Weaver 21:37
You know, this is the drink for the man's man! It's like what kind of crap is that? It's a Dr. Pepper.
Rob Icsezen 21:42
Lou Weaver 21:42
Right, let's talk about it for what it is. It tasted fine. I liked it. You know, if you're trying to reduce sugar intake or whatever is going on with your body that you want to drink this, that's great. But don't talk about it like, Men don't drink Diet Dr. Pepper, that's a woman's drink! We are drinking this. And those types of things perpetuate anything that somebody wants to say is less than.
Rob Icsezen 22:02
Lou Weaver 22:03
And and again, back to that it's homophobic, it's transphobic. And that is why as a transgender man, for many, many reasons, I get to blend into society. Testosterone is a powerful, powerful drug. I have a deeper voice than I've ever had -although sometimes it's not that deep. My body has changed. I have square shoulders. I have a squarer jaw. I have a beard.
Rob Icsezen 22:25
Lou Weaver 22:26
I blend into society. Not that I want to, but because that's what testosterone has given me. And I like the beard because it makes me look older, I have a baby face! [laughing] And so you know, this is one of the things...
Rob Icsezen 22:37
Me too actually! [laughing]
Lou Weaver 22:37
Right! And so the beard and the glasses are- and I hate to shave! So the beard and the glasses are actually tools to look my age, because ageism is also a thing in our society.
Rob Icsezen 22:46
Lou Weaver 22:48
And so transgender- or transgender women, our non-binary friends and some trans men are outliers and they stick out more in our society. And they're the ones that are picked on so these rules about how how we act, how we hold ourselves in public, are really damaging for my transgender sisters, my non-binary siblings, in the if you act like this, you do this, if you don't act like this, you go here, especially around restroom access, around jobs. And so, you know, I have been able to reduce a lot of barriers, that what stands in in ways of transgender people being able to live their authentic selves.
Rob Icsezen 23:26
Lou Weaver 23:27
I present white and I present male, and the ways that I get to move through society nobody cares about people like me. And in good ways and bad ways! But you know, I work for Equality Texas, we're constantly battling back bad legislation. We live through Houston, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance fight (https://www.equalitytexas.org/personal-essay-the-testimony-i-should-have-given/). I live here. The 2017 bathroom bills (https://www.equalitytexas.org/victory/), and we have to bring up the way that these are specifically targeted around transgender women. And the reason that works is misogyny, sexism and fear of penises. And you know, we people don't like to say penis or vagina, but we've obviously been saying them, but it's like, nobody cares where I go to the restroom.
Rob Icsezen 24:05
Wait when you say fear of penises, what do you mean?
Lou Weaver 24:07
Because women are taught to be afraid of penises.
Rob Icsezen 24:09
Lou Weaver 24:10
Right? And so being socialized woman, as a girl...
Rob Icsezen 24:13
Lou Weaver 24:14
I was taught how to not get raped. I was taught to walk with others, to walk, you know, have my keys out. All of these different types of ways to navigate society so I could keep myself safe. We don't teach little boys how to keep it in their pants, how to not rape somebody, we have this "boys will be boys" mentality.
Rob Icsezen 24:31
Yes! Particularly with the current administration.
Lou Weaver 24:34
Well the current administration is making it worse, but we've seen it with the Stanford swimmer (Brock Turner: https://www.vox.com/first-person/2017/11/17/16666290/brock-turner-rape). They posted his swim times rather than saying that he raped and unconscious woman. We've seen it with many others where a man just raped his 14 year old daughter, but since he was godly, he's getting a lighter sentence (https://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2019/05/pastor-who-repeatedly-raped-daughter-14-gets-light-sentence-because-jesus/). And it's victim shaming, it's, "of course the man can't be wrong" type of mentality. And this is also the same type of mentality that goes into harming transgender women. It goes into harming, harming my non-binary siblings, because they're quote, "not masculine enough." Like, and me, like, as we talked about tomboys, Of course somebody would want to transition and be male, why would you not want to be on the top of the pecking order?
Rob Icsezen 25:16
Lou Weaver 25:17
It's not verbally said to me, but it's the same thing about celebrating my transness and ignoring me to an extent, versus transgender women, of, Why would they want to be a woman? They had everything in the world, you know, and oh, [inaudible] the penis. Like that's, and the penis doesn't make somebody male or female, let's be perfectly clear about that, that's a body part!
Rob Icsezen 25:36
Lou Weaver 25:36
That is gendered unnecessarily, the same as, you know, somebody's elbow. But that is what is used to attack her, used to say You're not feminine enough to walk into this women's restroom.
Rob Icsezen 25:46
And it's almost an affront to the masculinity, the dominance of masculinity. I think that that's why it's so sensitive, because when you challenge the dominance of masculinity...
Lou Weaver 25:57
Rob Icsezen 25:57
...you then challenge the entire power structure. And, and those in power don't like it when their power is, is challenged. And so you get all these, these negative responses, these very knee jerk angry responses, and sometimes people are brought up in cultures where they, they have that kind of response. I mean, we there's a whole book that we were covering about the victimization of black transgender female, females in Houston, or black transgender women in Houston (https://www.outsmartmagazine.com/2018/11/toxic-silence/). And and it's it's awful. I mean, one of the things you you were just talking about is the murder and, and physical violence against trans women. It's a specific problem. And and it's, it's, it's against, specifically trans women, because, I think, and I'm curious to hear what you have to say about this, because trans women, by their very existence, challenge this masculine- masculinity, this masculine dominance power structure, in a way that makes people's minds explode, and they go violent. You know, when they're with someone, and they, often in these examples, find that the person is gendered in a way that's different than what they see, they lose their minds. And why?!? I'm curious about that.
Lou Weaver 27:20
Well, I think, you know, it's a really good question, and I haven't read this book yet. And I'm really anxious to, but I've done a lot of talking to my friends, I have been in this world for a very long time. And it's, it's when we talk about Transgender Day of Remembrance (https://www.glaad.org/tdor), it's very often that we are remembering transgender women, and specifically transgender women of color. But I think Janet Mock said it best a few summers ago when she said, transgender women of color are living in that juxtaposition between racism, classism, and socialis- and socialism, right? (see https://www.equalitytexas.org/reflections-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-transgender-day-of-remembrance/ and http://www.papermag.com/janet-mock-pride-cover-2440472774.html) How racism is obviously a thing that exists in our culture, especially against black and brown bodies, so transgender women with those bodies that are black and brown, they've already got one tick against them as far as society might see. They're trans, they're women. And so when we put- and and, if if you have racism and transphobia against you, do you have the money to have a roof over your head, to have access, you know, can you have a job? Can you have all of these things? And so frequently they're put in positions that might be more risky, because of this power structure that exists. And when we talk about, if somebody isn't who we think they are, then I think it's that rage of somebody of like, Oh, my gosh, you're another man, what does that mean about me? She's not a man, she's completely a woman. We have to acknowledge that. But it's this again, like how can I be attracted to another penis?
Rob Icsezen 28:35
Lou Weaver 28:35
And they think that it's an attack on themselves. So it's internalized homophobia, internalized transphobia, when they are not able to see this woman for who she is.
Rob Icsezen 28:44
Lou Weaver 28:44
And then they do things that, is horrible and violent, and they get away with it. These people are not charged under hate crimes. They are not- sometimes these, sometimes these these deaths, these these murders, they're not investigated.
Rob Icsezen 29:03
There is a legal defense called "trans panic." (https://lgbtbar.org/programs/advocacy/gay-trans-panic-defense/)
Lou Weaver 29:05
Rob Icsezen 29:06
Or "gay panic," which I didn't know about before I started looking into this, before these these episodes that we're doing. It is unbelievable that it is an affirmative defense, to murder, to assault to battery,
Lou Weaver 29:20
To rape. Yes!
Rob Icsezen 29:20
To rape. To all kinds of physical violence that, Oh, I was out of my mind, because I discovered my victim was gay or trans, or non-binary. That is unbelievable.
Lou Weaver 29:33
I hope that when we say things like this that people realize how hard it can be, for trans and non-binary people to leave their house.
Rob Icsezen 29:42
Lou Weaver 29:43
And again, we're not talking about people like me. Nobody cares about me when I walk out my door. We're talking about my transgender sisters attempting to navigate life in Houston, Texas. And we, third, fourth largest city in the United States... pick, take your pick, it happens here! People can't say it just happens in Orange or Vidor, or sure it might happen Vidor, it might happen in Tyler, but it happens here. We've lost in the past four years, we've lost two transgender women of color to violent means (Shante Thompson: https://www.hrc.org/blog/hrc-mourns-the-loss-of-shante-thompson and Brandi Seals: https://www.hrc.org/blog/hrc-mourns-brandi-seals-a-black-transgender-woman-murdered-in-houston/), one last year. And then they get misgendered in society. They get misgendered by the papers. And our transgender women that are that are still here are left to hold that burden.
Rob Icsezen 30:24
Lou Weaver 30:24
And we need to be better allies to show up and help them. We need to show up when we're, when, and ask and tell our elected officials, We need to change the rules.
Rob Icsezen 30:34
Lou Weaver 30:35
We need to add gender identity / gender expression to our hate crimes law! We need to take down this gay panic! We, for the love of Santa Claus, we need to remove sodomy from the books!
Rob Icsezen 30:46
Lou Weaver 30:47
You know, and we have to stop catering to some of our elected officials' homophobia that's blatant, that's out there, that were literally listening to. I got a text message 20 minutes ago, saying that it's a third reading of of House Bill 1978 (https://capitol.texas.gov/billlookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=76R&Bill=HB1978), which is a license to discriminate that my friends and I have been tackling for years and years. It's not as bad as the "Bathroom Bill," but it is as bad as the "Bathroom Bill."
Rob Icsezen 31:11
Lou Weaver 31:11
And whether it passes or not. And trust me, it's going to pass if it hasn't already, on the third reading of the house, it might go back to the Senate, and regardless, this will be signed into law by Governor Abbott. (it was, see here: https://www.equalitytexas.org/texas-anti-lgbtq-bill-signed-into-law-by-governor-greg-abbott/) That every time we have to hear this, it is so damaging, it is so heavy, that we have to hear how we are not viewed the same as our peers.
Rob Icsezen 31:32
Lou Weaver 31:33
And you know, people say, Well, why don't you move? Why don't I move? You think I have extra money to just get, pick up and move to where? Seattle? Portland? D.C.? My mom is here. My job is here. My, most of my support system is here. And I'm lucky, like my mom is affirming. My job is affirming. I have a roof over my head. But that doesn't mean I can pick up a move. That doesn't mean I want to pick up and move. And think about these people that don't have those things I just listed.
Rob Icsezen 32:00
And this is a, that particular bill that you're talking about is more subtle, I suppose, but just as pernicious, and it, what it does, is it, it- I think it's particularly pernicious because of the way they use religious exemptions to exempt folks from acknowledging the humanity of people. That's essentially what it is because my religion tells me that you're not a human, that your identity doesn't exist, that you're sick. I mean, in particular, I think it's called the Chick-fil-A, Save Chick-fil-A Bill? Chick-fil-A supported an organization that put money behind like gender- er-...
Lou Weaver 32:02
Yeah, conversion therapy!
Rob Icsezen 32:43
Conversion therapy, yes! Conversion therapy and this stuff that's really pernicious, and that is dedicated to denying your existence, and the existence of so many people in our society. And, and, but they wrap themselves in this religious kind of...
Lou Weaver 32:59
This religious cloak, but it's it's... yesterday, yesterday, I literally watched the House on my iPad. There, sitting there watching the live feed, and was crying as Representative Gonzales, both Representative Jessica Gonzalez, Representative Mary Gonzalez, Representatives Erin Zwiener, Julie Johnson and Celia Israel were sharing their truths. Representative Mary Gonzalez, when she took, when she actually became elected and went down to Austin, was was sent letters about how she should be raped because she's openly bisexual, openly pansexual, how she should be dead, and she shouldn't be there. These are, and I'm not sure how far removed she is from getting those horrible letters.
Rob Icsezen 33:45
Lou Weaver 33:47
And when Representative Krause who introduced the bill couldn't even say that county clerks should issue marriages for interracial couples. So, while it's definitely attacking the queer community, it's not just us. This is an intersectional problem where people are using their religion to dictate anybody that is not the same as them, which in this instance appears to be white, cisgender, heterosexual, and Christian. And Texas isn't that.
Rob Icsezen 34:17
And our culture is full of these binaries. Now, as you look into this more, it's - I have four kids - I was talking to my 11 year old in advance of this of this show about gender and gender identity and stuff. And she's like, well, I've just had to take all these standardized tests, and there's an M or an F, you bubble one of those two, there's no, there's nothing...
Lou Weaver 34:36
Rob Icsezen 34:36
Yeah exactly! Why is it relevant? You know, she has to wear a certain uniform to school, because of her body parts. No other good reason, you know, And, and she's kind of dealing... luckily, where she goes to school is, they're open about, they talk about this sort of thing. There are students who are out gay and lesbian. I don't know of any trans students. And these M/F bubbles still exist, these genderized uniforms still exist. I mean, so it's progress from when I was a kid, when none of that existed. But it's still not there. And the binaries are everywhere you look. So it's really, you know we have a lot of bubbles that we, or a handful of bubbles that we can bubble for race or ethnicity. But really, it's white and non white. It's cisgender, and everything else. It's it's male, and everything else kind of you know...
Lou Weaver 35:32
Rob Icsezen 35:33
And that's- so, so one of the questions as we kind of, you know, wind this down a little bit - we can go forever by the way!
Lou Weaver 35:40
Oh I'm sure we could yes!
Rob Icsezen 35:41
Such an engaging conversation. One of the things I'm curious to hear from you, as we see in Austin this constant assault, we know that it's gonna, it's not as bad this this session as it has been in prior sessions, but it's still bad. What can we do? What can the progressives in this community do? What can allies- you know, we talked a lot about being allies, being accomplices in the community, what, what can anyone who identifies as, or well anyone who sees this as a problem, who, who acknowledges humanity! What can we do to help fight this?
Lou Weaver 36:21
The that's a great, that's a really great question. There's just a couple of quick, easy answers. One: come out as an ally. And that might sound really dumb and really stupid. But I need to know that I don't have to carry the burden by myself.
Rob Icsezen 36:32
Lou Weaver 36:32
I need to know that if I'm in a group of people, and somebody says some homophobic or something transphobic, that I'm not the one going to call it out, that somebody else says that's not okay. Because every time I have to hold that, every time I have to stick up for my humanity, if I'm staring at faces, like, that's making me other, and I have to hold that. Don't make me hold that. And don't make a black persons or Latino person hold that up when there's racist jokes either. You have to be an ally for all of us, or it doesn't work. Educate yourself is the other one. If you don't know about trans topics, if you don't know about nonbinary topics, number one: ask your friend, if they want to tell you about them, before you start asking them. I will talk to anybody if you buy me a Dr. Pepper, you buy me vodka, I'm happy to do this. I also do this for a job. Right, arrange for trainings that are outside of your comfort zone. It's okay to be uncomfortable. But it's not okay to make... and it's okay to make mistakes, but it's not okay to compound those mistakes and say, Well, I didn't know. Find a way to know! Sometimes "The Google" is right. There's amazing books. I'm looking at one right now on your table, Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity (https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/raju18532). I have a couple of friends who added essays to that. Read that. Follow Monica Roberts on Twitter (@TransGriot) or read Transgriot blog (https://transgriot.blogspot.com/). If we stay in our own bubbles and don't learn, we're not doing ourselves or anybody any favors. So I need you to be an ally. I need you to step up. I need you to come out of your comfort zone. And I need you to educate yourself on what this means.
Rob Icsezen 37:58
Lou Weaver 37:58
But don't expect me- if we're out the bar and I'm already drinking and I'm two drinks in go, Hey, I wanted to talk to you about... Might not be the most appropriate time, right. And if you want somebody to come talk to you, pay them. I can't tell you how many times people are holding a conference and they're like, Oh, we need a trans speaker, can you come in? Are you gonna pay me? No. You know what, I'm pretty sure everybody sitting down there has paid money to come in.
Rob Icsezen 38:23
Lou Weaver 38:23
Even if it's 25 bucks. Even it's just to make sure I get lunch and gas money to get in there. Pay somebody for their expertise! Because I'll tell you, I'm an expert on what it's like to be trans. I'm not an expert on every trans life.
Rob Icsezen 38:34
Lou Weaver 38:35
So make sure you're not just getting white trans people who fit into the binary, whether it's men or women, get people of color in there, because I guarantee their differences are vastly different than the way that I experienced my world. So find ways to to step out of your comfort zone, go to places you haven't been before. Make sure that as Pride comes up, that you're not just doing Pride stuff during Pride Month. In October is National Coming Out Day, November is known as Trans Awareness Month, go find a Transgender Day of Remembrance, and sit there and listen to the stories and find out ways you can help. Volunteer at Montrose Grace Place (https://www.montrosegraceplace.org/volunteer.html). That is a drop in center for homeless LGBTQ youth. They need some help! Right, join an organization that you wouldn't normally think about joining so that you can be a part of it and help other folks carry this load. That's really what we need here in Houston.
Rob Icsezen 39:25
And the expression outside of the presence of someone who's a member of the community is, I think, very important. So when white people sit around and talk to white people, they should not be okay with racist terms. Just like when cisgender people stand around with cisgender people, they should not be okay with anti-trans or anti nonbinary comments.
Lou Weaver 39:49
Right, don't just be my ally, when I'm standing there.
Rob Icsezen 39:51
Lou Weaver 39:51
You have to be my ally all the time. And trust me, I will know. I will find out. And that one turn, that you make a mis- you know, if you make a mistake, and it's one, and you're like, oops, I should have said something, because we all do that. But if it's over and over again, where you're not standing up for me, or if you're letting somebody call me by the wrong name, or by Oh, Lou's not really a man. Like somebody's gonna tell me and that's going to hurt me deeper than my enemy hating me, Jonathan [inaudible] can hate me all day long, because he hates everybody.
Rob Icsezen 40:18
Lou Weaver 40:18
But if my friend says something about me, you can't be like that. And you can't let somebody else say something like that.
Rob Icsezen 40:23
And in the corporate world, I think this might be changing. But one important thing that you see a lot now, and I think is good, is that when you identify like in a signature, an email signature, you put your pronouns.
Lou Weaver 40:37
Rob Icsezen 40:38
When you have a name tag at a conference, or whatever it is, you put your pronouns. I've seen some pushback to that, like people kind of scoff at it and laugh at it sometimes. And it seems it strikes me, strikes me as pretty awful when that's the reaction because it's laughing at, that I, the fact that this is a facet of human identity.
Lou Weaver 40:59
Right, it's laughing at, Well why should I have to do this?
Rob Icsezen 41:01
Lou Weaver 41:01
You know, especially if we start with the email pronouns, mine are in all my signatures, I asked people to do it. And some people were like, Well, am I, you know, appropriating something from the, from the trans community? We should all be doing this. It's not just trans people who need to have their pronouns respected, or should be putting their pronouns out there. Right, cis people have different layers of gender expression as well. But let's think about how many people do we do business with, do we interact with, that don't have an Americanized name? Or a name- Why the hell are names gendered! Let's just back up and stop with that.
Rob Icsezen 41:33
Lou Weaver 41:33
Does Rob have to be a man's name.
Rob Icsezen 41:35
Lou Weaver 41:35
Lou is not, you know, I, Lou could be anybody's name. Taylor, you know, I don't know, you can think of all these things, Shelby, that are not men or women's names. And it just helps, because how many times have you out there gotten an email that says Mr. or Ms., and you're not, right.
Rob Icsezen 41:51
Lou Weaver 41:51
And you're like... but think about how many people we do business with the don't have that Americanized name, that we have no idea whether or not that has a gender connotation to it?
Rob Icsezen 41:59
Lou Weaver 42:00
And it's just common courtesy, that we should be able to do this, so that we know how to address people. Because I guarantee using the correct name and the correct pronoun will go a long way to making sure that tone you're setting for doing business or being friends with somebody is going to start off on the right foot. And I was gonna say, I don't know, I forgot something! But...
Rob Icsezen 42:21
No, it's fine, I was, so I was going to relay a story. Just, when I was inviting you on the show, we had an email exchange. One of the things I do is I ask people for their pronouns in advance when I introduce them for the show. And I said, I had in my kind of form email, could you let me know what the pronouns are that you use? You responded and corrected me and said, pronouns aren't something... no sorry!
Lou Weaver 42:43
Rob Icsezen 42:44
Preferred! I said, What are your preferred pronouns, and you corrected me and said, pronouns are not preferred, they're used.
Lou Weaver 42:50
Rob Icsezen 42:50
And that was important. And I learned that.
Lou Weaver 42:52
Rob Icsezen 42:52
You know, and that's I, I thank you for that. But that's kind of, I think that was a good example of- I read a lot about this, I think I- you know, I definitely care a lot about it, but, I need to learn more. We all do!
Lou Weaver 43:04
Right. And we all need to be willing to be like, Oh, I didn't know, okay, thanks. Versus, [huffing] Well, that's what that's what somebody told me. You know what this changes a lot, we used to say preferred pronouns. I don't prefer my pronouns. I prefer vanilla ice cream over chocolate, I prefer vodka over gin. Right? I use my pronouns the same way that you use yours. Also, this is not my preferred name, because that implies that it's a nickname, it is my name. And whether it's legal or not, it is none of your business unless you're my doctor or my employer. It is my name. Plain and simple. And you know, we do that for cisgender people all the time. Right. I think your emails might actually say Robert, and you say my name is Rob. Great! Hi Rob, how's it going!
Rob Icsezen 43:42
Lou Weaver 43:42
Or how many people, I have a lot of friends who use a middle name instead of their first name. I have a lot of friends who use a more Americanized version that's not even close to what their name is.
Rob Icsezen 43:50
Lou Weaver 43:51
But if they are from another country, and they change their name, because it's easier for us, it's not easier on them!
Rob Icsezen 43:57
Lou Weaver 43:57
Right! And if we can, we can all pronounce "Daenerys Targaryen" but we cannot pronounce other things for our friends.
Rob Icsezen 44:03
[laughing] So, yeah, I grew up, my my last name "Icsezen" which is difficult even for Turkish people. But it's it's it's spelled I-C-S-E-Z-E-N. And the "C" in Turkish has a cedilla (ç). So it's "Itch" like "I" with a "C-H" but in English when my parents moved over, my dad moved here, he didn't change the "C" because there's no, he didn't he, I guess, he should have made it "C-H." But I grew up as a kid always kind of saying,Ah, never- it's fine, "It-sezen" whatever, you know. Kind of people murdering my name and never making a thing of it. But the more I kind of realized that that's, that's not, I need to let people know the proper pronunciation of my name...
Lou Weaver 44:44
Rob Icsezen 44:44
How I do it. And and, and that's part of who I am, every bit as much as anyone else.
Lou Weaver 44:52
Absolutely. And I think that's a great example. We have, there's a number of people out there with names that are not easy to roll off of an American speaker's, you know, a native American speaker's, American English speaker's toungue, but we have to do it. We have been doing this for years and years and years. We can say all these other words, and we're willing to do it when it matters. But sometimes we're like, Why? Why should I bother? You know what? And if we give them free passes of saying... My mom's last name is Szymanski, but it's "S-Z-Y" there's no "A" in there! If we give people free passes to be like, Oh, no, it's okay, then we're not holding them accountable.
Rob Icsezen 45:28
Lou Weaver 45:29
And let's be real, I shouldn't always have to be the one holding somebody accountable. Hold yourselves accountable. Right? Like, no, tell me how you pronounce that! Somebody's like, oh no, it's okay! Like, if you tell me it's okay, and that's what you totally go by, then great. But like, if I'm doing it wrong, help me out.
Rob Icsezen 45:42
And that's often affected by the society you grow up in. So in the 1980s in Houston, when I grew up, I didn't really feel comfortable correcting people. But now! In the world we live in with the community we have today, I feel very comfortable telling people Oh, no, this is the proper pronunciation. So it, maybe I'm the one doing it, but I'm empowered by those around me.
Lou Weaver 46:04
Rob Icsezen 46:05
Who respect that identity.
Lou Weaver 46:07
And and let's, you know, when we if we go, take this back to talking about the way that men and women are raised...
Rob Icsezen 46:13
Lou Weaver 46:14
...women are not always raised or people who are socialized as female, are not always raised with the ability to speak up and speak out.
Rob Icsezen 46:19
Lou Weaver 46:20
So think about making sure we give space for folks who are not okay, or not empowered yet to say this. If they're not telling you the first time the second time, but then they're like, okay, you're a part of my world, this is how we really say my name. Great. Thanks for telling me.
Rob Icsezen 46:35
Lou Weaver 46:36
And the same with everything else that's going on around. I know this with trans men and trans women, the way that I was culturally socialized, is, I was taught not to take up a lot of space. Right?
Rob Icsezen 46:48
Yeah. Be small.
Lou Weaver 46:48
I was born in 1970. How are these things going, the way I navigate society, and trying to relearn that and relearn how that as a man, to take up space, but also not to be threatening, is something that we're all hopefully navigating of how not to be threatening, how to make sure that we're making space for each other. And when we talk and when we don't talk.
Rob Icsezen 47:07
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, this has been really, really fantastic.
Lou Weaver 47:12
Rob Icsezen 47:12
Thank you so much for for talking through this. I think that we all have a lot of work to do. You know, we talk on this show a lot about the hard work of progressivism. You know, you can't just sit back and be comfortable in your own space in your own world, you need to, to act, to be to be true to your values. And I think that there's a whole lot people can do differently. Some of its really easy from just putting your pronouns in your email.
Lou Weaver 47:16
Rob Icsezen 47:37
To, to stepping outside of maybe your comfort zone to, if you own a shop not having a men's or women's section in that shop, you know, or challenging in the corporate world where where structures might be tough, but there's a lot people can do. And I hope, I hope I hope they feel empowered to do a little bit more.
Lou Weaver 47:54
I do too, yeah.
Rob Icsezen 47:54
Yeah. Well, thank you so much. This has been great.
Lou Weaver 47:56
Thank you Rob, this has been great!
Rob Icsezen 47:57
Appreciate it, thanks.
If you enjoyed this discussion, stick with us! Because next week we're going to continue our focus on LGBTQIA+ issues, hope you'll join us!
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