I gave a talk on March 20, at LibrePlanet 2016, at MIT, in Cambridge, Massachusetts (I mention being enthused in an earlier blog post), on a LibrePlanet scholarship. To avoid transphobic harassment by the TSA, and other airport staff, my friends drove me (notably Tom Almquist of our staff) 2,792 miles from Minneapolis, Minnesota and back.
Make sure to check the bottom of this post–I included a time lapse of my trip!
The Trip to Boston
The route we took, seen below, is 1,396 miles one way, and goes through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Massachusetts. Tom and Nicole ran the gauntlet to Boston in 26 hours straight.
I’m relieved I passed (appear cisgender) enough to use bathrooms with ease. However, feminine-upkeep was nearly impossible, especially since some of it could out me; this lack of hygiene put me in an embarrassing state, I’m glad nobody else I know saw what I looked like on the road! It was a very stressful and dysphoric experience, but I’m tough, and it was no where near as bad as the airport.
We stopped to eat at Steve’s Diner (24 hours!)–really hit the spot after 12 hours on the road. Nice greasy food and amazing breakfast all-the-time menu. I got a little burger and it was delicious, the staff there was super nice and it had a nice alternative vibe.
My Talk, The Event
On March 19, the first day of LibrePlanet 2016, I had just arrived in the early morning, having just travelled 1,396 miles from Minneapolis to Boston without rest. Needless to say, I slept through the first day of LibrePlanet (unfortunately!). On the second day, March 20, I headed off early to LibrePlanet 2016!
The talk I gave itself, entitled “Trans Code: Free software as model & critique of diversity by transgender hackers” with our Secretary Brian Callahan, was very well received. I don’t want to spoil too much because the video for my talk will be out soon (in a week or so?)!
I got a chance to meet Richard Stallman and talk to them for a while about permissive licenses (like expat, Apache, X11), they also gave me their pleasure card.
It was also really nice to meet our Secretary of the Board, Brian Callahan for the first time in person. They’re very down-to-earth, patient, and nice, I’d definitely call him one of “my people.”
The reception of my talk nearly brought me to tears–we got a few ovations, people lined up for questions, I was surrounded by people who cared about my work. A lot of people came up to me and said wonderful things about me and my work, during the talk and after, and it filled my heart with joy.
After the talk I went with Lisa Marie Maginnis to Veggie Galaxy (vegan restaurant) to get the best veggie burger I’d ever had! The restaurant was filled with cute queer girls, punkish attire, and dyed hair. Lisa and I talked a bunch about business/organization stuff, but she also dazzled me with her technical insight.
I met some cool people, made some new friends, professional contacts, and volunteers! We’ve gotten more monthly/recurring donations on our Patreon now, too!
On our return trip, from Boston to Minneapolis, we stopped to sleep at the Hyatt hotel, inside the Cleveland Arcade in Ohio.
We saw a dear friend of mine in Rochester, New York, it was really great to see her; I waited for her in a cafe called Java’s Cafe. I was very tired and not using a passing voice, and apparently a couple of jerks at the cafe noticed and targeted us with intense, religiously-inspired transphobic threats. Thankfully, we all got out of the cafe safely.
Much later on, we hit up a friend of Tom’s in Madison, Wisconsin. It was a nice break having just driven from Cleveland. We ate at this place called Naf Naf Grill, which was pretty much the Chipolte of Falaffel–and it was so good, especially after eating a ton of fast food. They had these flat, thinly-sliced fries that were absolutely delicious and in between a chip and a french fry. I saw a giant, vibrant candy shop I had to avoid with all my might.
Was it worth it?
Was it worth traveling 2,792 miles to avoid the TSA and general airport staff? Absolutely. I authentically feel I have PTSD from my airport experiences which I’ll talk about here.
My State ID has my old, masculine name on it, and an male gender marker; it’s a little demon that outs me to authority. As someone who suffers mental illness, doing something simple like showing up to court and filling out a ton of forms is very overwhelming, so it’s something I procrastinated on, especially as my life has been so chaotic.
I lost count of the number of times airport staff pleasantly treated me as a woman, until my little demon spoke to them, and they treated me indeed like a demon. I had someone point and laugh at me, getting their friends/coworkers to join in the fun. How many comments along the lines of Do we allow this? How all of them, when seeing my name, gender marker, how I looked then, would exclaim, “Sir!” as if to advertise that it they’d never be “fooled” by a transgender woman. My hilarious little demon, which told them my vulnerable secret, so they could hurt me.
The body scanners were also very difficult, as soon as they see my hen on the bodyscanner, whereas they ma’am’d me prior, as all these staff had done, they again, exclaim “Sir!”
And I don’t even want to talk about the bad parts.