“Pretty fuckin’ presumptuous, ain’t I?”

“Dunno if it matters that I mean well,” “… it’s just that I’ve learned some truths about myself that I have a hunch apply to you.” These are the words of Lou Sullivan and his article A Transvestite Answers a Feminist blew my mind. Maybe it’s because my life intersects with his, or maybe it’s because he has a lot of really awesome, very applicable points in response to the parts of feminism that attempt to be against the trans* population. He and Dorothy make their arguments in colloquial English and aren’t afraid to use offensive words to prove a point. The most interesting part of this article is that it was written when Sullivan identified as a female transvestite, so the article is a rare view of a particular kind of life at a very unique stage of development into being. However, all of these things pale against the fact that his article is solely comprised of notes passed back and forth between two feminist-identified people with slightly different perspectives on life who were challenging each other to think outside of their own heads. Dorothy and Lou exchange an odd form of communication that is both a sister- and a brotherhood simultaneously, while also being a new form of camaraderie foreign to the gendered sphere.

My first introduction to anything trans* was Ash Kulak’s Q-project. It was comprised of interviews asking trans* individuals at IU about their views on the options the University offered them, usually involved with housing arrangements. However, there was a teacher at IU who was interviewed and he said that he does not reveal his trans* identity to his class, especially when teaching on feminism, because it ends up distracting from the message that the class is trying to convey. Coming out to his students would invariably cause them to excuse his viewpoint’s legitimacy because they see him as actually being a girl from that point on. All they can think about is how being trans* works, not the material that he was trying to teach them.

What I want to know is: would this article exist if Sullivan had already transitioned, or even just started that process? Would the conversation have happened if Sullivan was just a self-proclaimed trans-man? The way Dorothy approached the topic of gender and gender roles in society would have been rather different if she had known the full extent of Sullivan’s gender non-normativity. That was why this article in particular blew my mind. It only exists in its beautiful way because two people found each other at just the right time and mood to have an intense conversation that started over nothing and escalated into a discussion of trans* issues and a defense of trans* identities by a feminist, even though Dorothy was not, in all probability, intending her words to be read in that context. The IU teacher did not come out to his students for the sake of teaching something  meaningful to his students. Lou Sullivan did not fully come out to Dorothy until the end of the stream of notes, which allowed a comfortable conversation between co-workers and friends to happen before identities got in the way. 

– Skyler Powell

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