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Feb 19, 2019 · Book Review: Tranny by Laura Jane Grace


I remember the first punk album that I got my hands on: Dookie by Green Day.

I sat in my basement in that high backed computer chair watching the music videos on repeat, unknowingly unlocking a part of my identity which would be ebbing and flowing from the surface to the depths of myself. I don’t think I quite understood what those moments would mean to me 10 odd years later.

I remember the first video I saw of Against Me!, an acoustic rendition of Because of the Shame. Frozen in front of the screen, I could feel that song vibrate through my skin, leaving goosebumps and the feeling that I was missing something more. I don’t think I could comprehend the weight of the lyrics that I was hearing, but for the first time in my life I could feel the weight of the voice singing it. I found something golden.

How could I have known that the lead singer would come out as transgender later next year?

And how could I have known that her coming out would end up being so critical to my growth as a lover of music, but as a trans person myself?


Laura Jane Grace was the first public figure that I remember coming out. Partially because of my incessant need to listen to any album that wreaked havoc on the establishment (or what I thought was the establishment at the time). I like to think that while I was living life as a very “goodie two shoes” girl, I also had some other turmoil raging inside of me that I wouldn’t discover for years. But I fed it with this music, and I fed it with Laura Jane Grace stepping into the light as a foundational trans musician (and in the punk scene nonetheless).

The journey to Laura’s public announcement in Rolling Stone (cite article here), was less than pain free. She details this journey from adolescence in her memoir entitled Tranny. The book starts out talking about her rebellious youth, studded by anarchy, punk, and (what was at the time) a confusing urge to want to sit in her basement wearing women’s clothing. Much of the book focuses on how she utilized the punk scene to cover up her desires to transition into a woman, or how uncomfortable she felt in her own body from a young age. Rather than face those head on, she used rage and anger and music. Against Me! Is not only a band born out of the DIY Punk scene in Gainsville, Florida, but it was a refuge for a conflicted trans woman, wrestling for decades before finally finding solace with her identity. The book is littered with journal entries from over the years that the front woman had wrote, after shows, after break-ups, after deaths of friends. All of them feel real enough, that I sometimes feel that I could hear Laura read them herself.

For those who are fans of Against Me! You’ll be excited to find not only some of the back story for many of the band’s songs, but some of the journal entries which inspired some of the best-known lyrics. Much like their discography, this book is filled with life, death, heartbreak, and the difficulty of becoming a “sell out” in the eyes of a fan base. And all of it feels incredibly crucial to the eventual climax of Laura Jane Grace deciding to come out in her late thirties.

We all come out on our own terms, and sometimes, we don’t even realize that we had needed to come out at all. Tranny perfectly depicts the continual struggle that an identity can bring, and some of the pitfalls and vices that we may use to push down our true selves over the course of our life. This book is honest, if nothing else. You can almost feel that the final edited copy was kicked around in a mosh pit a few times before they sent it off to print. But, importantly, it staples Laura Jane Grace as an important public figure in the trans, and punk community.

I saw the video of Against Me! When I was 15. I read this book at the age of 23. I could not have predicted how much I had related to this book, hell, I didn’t even know that I would identify as trans nonbinary 10 years after finding Against Me! For the first time. Laura Jane Grace is one of the people I have looked up to in my own journey as a trans person, and being able to hold such a detailed account of her life makes my own life feel more valid, and all the more reason for me to continue to glue myself tightly to the music that I listen to now, and the songs that I found moving back then.

When you get goosebumps from a song, you don’t always understand what caused such a visceral response. At least, I didn’t know that it was because that song, that band, would become a cornerstone of my identity just a few years later.

Dec 18, 2018 · In Case You Missed It: Charlie Blotner

On November 27th, The Kern Center Innovation and Design Series of Unexpected Conversation brought Charlie Blotner to speak for a lunchtime talk, titled “Establishing Trust in Healthcare: How the Transgender Community is Building a New Ecosystem for Health.” What made this talk interesting from the start is that Blotner brings a unique viewpoint as a transgender patient and a provider.

As a transgender patient and researcher, I’ve heard a lot of talks about healthcare. And most of them play out the same way: Use pronouns, gender neutral bathrooms, be considerate, treat trans people like human beings. You know, very basic human decency kind of talks. But this talk was different, and really talked more about the concepts of making our practice more transgender friendly in a general sense, and the trends that we should pursue not only at Mayo Clinic, but in the field of healthcare.

Charlie began his talk with discussing why we should care about gender, and how gender comes to be. Our gender, and our perception of gender is influenced by our location, access to language and safety. The compounding socialization that is required to think about gender is why we can’t talk about gender without talking about gender bias, or other biases. All of us grow up in different communities with different shared identifies, belief systems, experiences, and socialization. And at the end of the day, it is that socialization is going to impact the performance and perception of gender.

Unfortunately, many societies are socialized in a way that is hostile or discriminatory toward the transgender community, and that is also true for our healthcare. The next section of the talk started to actually talk about healthcare, mentioning how much of the transgender care information is disseminated through peer to peer contact, support groups online, tweets, and instagram posts. Many trans people use social media in order to record life and mental health for themselves, and for others going through the same thing. Blotner also brought up the lack of training for medical residents about working with transgender patients, with most of the training being attitude based interventions and not actual hands on practice.

“Gaps in medical education make the dissemination of intercommunity knowledge even more important”, Blotner said.

One of more sobering parts of the talk was when Charlie showed the audience a screenshot that he took on Mayo’s Office of Health Disparities Research. After entering ‘transgender’ in the search bar, there were zero results. Though this might simply be due to external vs internal facing pages, but why wouldn’t that be something we show externally? If we as a clinic can’t outwardly show our research, how canour patients know that we support them. If our providers aren’t supportive of the transgender community publicly, how do we know they are doing it privately? We still have a ways to go in creative a more diverse Mayo Clinic.

Blotner’s talk was a fresh take on transgender healthcare and how publicly supportive appearance, socialization, and training are what makes up the large part of what is important in transgender health care, and things that we can actively work on. We can actively show our support of our patients and work to increase the training of our patients, because just having a gender clinic isn’t enough. We need to grow our transgender healthcare practice from the Transgender and Intersex Clinic to the entire enterprise. And, hopefully this presentation continued to bring to light the importance of this conversation as we push Mayo Clinic to becoming more diverse and inclusive.


You can view Charlie’s talk here:

Nov 2, 2018 · Kavanaugh: What Now?

J. Scott Applewhite / AP file

I don’t want to write another article about how tragic, and terrifying it is that Brett Kavanaugh is now a Supreme Court Justice of the United States of America. I don’t want to write another think piece on what it is like to be assigned female at birth, trans, or nonbinary in the era of “Me, Too” and, what that means following Kavanaugh’s confirmation. I also don’t want to write another heart wrenching article about what it is like to relive traumatic events every single day as a survivor of sexual assault and abuse. We don’t need another article about the pain, the suffering, the un realistic normality that the past few years we have created. But I will write an article acknowledging that these are all important topics to think about, read about, and begin to work into our everyday life. Because this is our reality.

So what do we do now? What CAN we do now? What can I do, as a singular human, in a world full of uncertainty, fear, and misinformation?


We can check in with those who may be struggling.

The recent political news cycle has affected numerous people. Perhaps some of those folks are more obvious than others. Take a moment and ask a friend, a family member, a co-worker, a relationship in which you can honestly check in, and ask….”how are you?”. If someone is voicing their struggle, continue to see how they are coping. If someone is not voicing their struggle, don’t feel you need to wrestle it out of them. Do your best in helping them work through it, and continue to remind people in your life that they are not alone, and don’t have to bear the weight of an entire government solely on their shoulders. It isn’t your job to offer therapeutic support, but to offer what you can, and sometimes a small check in can go a long way. In a toxic culture, kindness is powerful.


We can show empathy for the despair and anger our peers may be feeling.

Perhaps you are not quite so affected by the goings on in the world, and by the confirmation of Kavanaugh. That’s great, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show empathy for those who may be feeling negative emotions. You don’t have to completely understand where their emotions are rooted, but being a good supportive ally in any respect means you listen to the thoughts of people from a different viewpoint. Those experiencing heavy emotions may need that support, and may need validation that their potentially intense emotions are okay to feel, and not an overreaction. It is worth noting that while you are showing empathy and caring for others, you should still be aware of your own well being and pull back when needed.

Source: Isabella Rotman


We can become active bystanders in sexual assault prevention.

What does it mean to be an active bystander? What does it mean to prevent sexual assault? A bystander is a person who may witness a situation but may not know what to do. Being an active bystander is being able to call out people who are perpetuating rape culture or making fun of survivors. It is being able to notice red flag scenarios that may lead to a situation of sexual violence and knowing how to safely intervene. Reducing sexual violence is about understanding consent and looking out for those around us.

A great resource for increasing your awareness as a bystander is Isabella Rotman’s book Not on My Watch: A bystanders’ handbook for the prevention of sexual violence. The book is av

ailable as a free-ebook here:



Source: Microcosm Publishing

We can become more informed on positive affirmative consent.


There is not a set definition of consent. Some people define it as verbal affirmation, but that may not always be the case in every relationship. Consent and Coercion are all about power, and not every group of people feel like they can hold or give power in the same way that others can. That is why it is important to continue to read and learn about various ways consent can be upheld in

relationships, and why it is even more important to continue to find ways to keep consent active in relationships (of all kinds). Consent isn’t inherently sexual, it is about communication and creating spaces that we can be safe in. Both public and private experiences deserve to be safe. We need to start paying attention to the consent we do or don’t give in all of our interactions and work to be better.

A great resource for building our knowledge about consent is Cindy Crabb’s curation Learning Good Consent: Building Ethical Relationships in a Complicated World. This book is a collection of thoughts on consent from various sources that create a cohesive overview for your own thought stimulation. The book can be found here:



We can learn about those who are working for victims and survivors.

The best way that we can combat a world in which sexual violence is so prevalent is being prepared to hand out information to those who, unfortunately, may need it and support organizations doing good work to lift the voices of survivors. No matter how connected you are to a survivor community, you should still be prepared, able, and ready to distribute this important information. RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) has curated a wonderful list of resources for all kind of sexual assault and violence, including hotlines that are available to those who need them:




Source: Good Reads, Erika Moen, and Matthew Nolan

We can inform ourselves on birth control and safe sexual practices

In a time where rights of those assigned female at birth are more at siege everyday it becomes more important for us to educate ourselves in safe sex and birth control methods, regardless of your gender or sex assigned at birth. Not all of us have had a complete sex education, and fewer of us have had an inclusive and sex positive sex education. These are the


times that we need to make sure we understand what it means to be safe, regardless of the reproductive system that we possess. Luckily, there are many resources out there to not only learn about birth control and safe sex practices, but there are places to go to receive these services.

Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan are about to publish the first in a 3 part series on sexual education called Drawn to Sex: The Basics. This graphical representation of sex ed covers consent, birth control for all bodies, and safe sex practices. It can be found here:

Scarleteen is also a great resource for sexuality and sexual health, bringing in numerous guests to write columns and comics on the topics, all delightfully located here:

For more information and continuous health support, Planned Parenthood is one of the best local resources to obtain more information of safe sexual practices, receive birth control, or other general sexual health related care. Planned Parenthood also is able to cater to people who often can’t afford coverage, making sexual health practice more accessible.


We can become kinder, more thoughtful, more attentive in our interactions with others.

I’ll admit it, the world is cruel. The political climate is crueler, in particular to specific marginalized groups. We don’t know who may be affected negatively on any given day so the best that we can offer is to simply be kind. Treat the people around us with as much kindness that we can muster in the day, and pay attention to our interactions with others. Did you say something that may have been received in a poor way? Are you holding yourself accountable for your actions, intended or not, to others? Are you being patient with people who may need it? Are you and those around you speaking with words that are potentially harmful? Are your actions inclusive? We can all work on how thoughtfully we interact with the world around us, and now is just a good a time as any.

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